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Sir Isaac Coffin, 








Copyright, i8S6, by 



hbW YORK. 




This memoir, in its original form of a discourse, had its limitations of 
time and topic. Much else might have been added connected with the 
subject had the occasion allowed. The several histories of Nantucket, the 
<' Life of Tristram Coffin," by Mr. Allen Coffin ; of " General John Coffin," 
by his son, Henry Edward ; " The Arms of the Family," by Mr. John 
Coffin Jones Brown, are well known and accessible. Other sources of 
information exist in print and manuscript. Bearing in Uiind that many 
readers of these pages will find them more instructive if they have at hand 
what will better explain them, I have borrowed from their pages, under 
marks of quotation, in the larger part by permission and with grateful ac- 
knowledgments. If I have been too bold, I pray their forgiveness. Let 
me also express my sense of the kindness of the New York Genealogical 
and Biographical Society, in permitting me to read what portions of this 
memoir their limits permitted, in their course, and to have these por- 
tions, somewhat extended, inserted in their January Record. 

Boston, March i, 1886. 



I. — Ancestry 7 

11.— Alwington 13 

III.— New England 18 

IV. — Nantucket 21 

v.— Tristram's Death and Descendants 25 

VI.— Boston and Isaac Coffin 31 

VII.— Isaac at Sea 36 

VIII. — Captain of a Seventy-four 41 

IX.— Peace of 1783 44 

X. — Marriage and Parliament 4S 

XI. — Genial Temperament 51 

:>^II. — Benefactions and Death 54 

XIII. — The Coffin Coats of Arms -. 60 

XIV.— TucKETT's Visitations of Devon 63 

XV. — Coffin Dates ... 64 

XVI.— The Reformation 66 

XVII.— Allen Coffin's Call of Tristram's Descendants to the 

Second Centennial of his Death in 1881 68 

XVIIL— Wills 78 

XIX. — Correspondence 85 

XX.— The Coffin Schools 9^ 





The name of Coffin is so widely spread over our continent, so many 
thousands of men and women of other patronymics take pride in their de- 
scent from Tristram, its first American patriarch, that what concerns them 
all, any considerable branch or distinguished individual of the race, seems 
rather history than biography. 

Space forbids my repeating here, as I well might wish, all that has been 
recorded of their existence in the new world, or that beyond the sea. But 
what sheds light on Sir Isaac and his immediate progenitors is too ger- 
mane to my subject to be wholly overlooked. To trace back Tristram to 
Alwington, follow his fortunes from Plympton in old England to the Mer- 
rimack in the new, bring his checkered career to its honored close at Nan- 
tucket ; to pay due homage to his son James, the upright judge ; to his son 
Nathaniel, the dauntless master mariner, and his wife, Damaris Gayer, 
the eloquent preacher ; to their son William, the much-loved merchant of 
Boston, senior warden of Trinity ; to his son, another Nathaniel, graduate 
of Harvard and Yale, King's treasurer, and father of Sir Isaac— six gene- 
rations with Tristram of admirable men, with much to praise and little 
to censure, is our legitimate purpose, so far as our limits prescribed will 
permit, before proceeding to our more immediate subject. 

Though unlike in character, and of very different experiences from his 
ancestors, Sir Isaac was too remarkable a man to pass into oblivion. His 
long life, commencing in 1759 '^^ Boston, and ending eighty years later in 
Cheltenham, England, was crowded with events, many of historic mipor- 
tance. By his native vigor, doughty deeds, and eminent services he rose 


to distinguished rank in the British navy, became captain of a line-of-battle 
ship at the age of twenty-two, and was created a baronet at the age of forty- 
four. This not from large means, family influence, or court favor, but that 
his character and conduct afloat and ashore entitled him to such prefer- 
ment. Throngs of heroic officers won glory in the same wars that he did, 
attracted attention by more conspicuous achievements ; but his fearless 
daring, zeal, and ability, and what he accomplished, inscribes his memory 
high up on the roll of honor, if not on the scroll of fame. 

How far life and character are moulded by circumstances, how far by 
heredity, is a complicated problem, and the horoscope is too largely affected 
by maternal influences for these to be disregarded. Though bearing all the 
marks of his paternal stock, Sir Isaac doubtless owed something to the 
blood mingling in his veins from other sources, and it has been my endeavor 
to discover these infusions where I can, and one instance should be pre- 
served for the criticism of coming genealogists — a supposed link that may 
be of use. 

Nicholas, father of Peter and grandfather of Tristram, has been re- 
garded as their most remote paternal ancestor ascertained. According to 
tradition, their line was an offshoot of Alwmgton, but how, continued a 
puzzle. Many years ago I bought an old edition of Collins (1758), and while 
seeking some other information, my eyes fell on the name of Peter Coffin, 
who about 1560 married Mary, fourth daughter of Hugh Boscawen. Hugh 
died 1559, at the age of eighty. As the homes of the Boscawens, Tre- 
gothnan and Penkeville, lay near Brixton, the home of Tristram, this 
awakened curiosity, the more that Peter's name was not in the index, and 
might have escaped the notice of previous genealogical inquirers. 

Hugh Boscawen, of one of the most affluent and influential famiHes of 
Cornwall, married Phillippa Carminow, of large possessions and royal de- 
scent, inheriting, through Philip Courtenay, the unfortunate Marquis of Ex- 
eter, Plympton, and other estates near Plymouth, part of which we find the 
inheritance of Tristram. Hugh had seven sons and seven daughters. The 
third son, Nicholas, eighty-six when he died in 1626, was the successor of 
his parents in their estates. His sister Mary, who married Peter Coffin, must 
have been born about 1545, as there were nine younger children than her- 
self born before 1559, when her father died at the age of eighty. Her 
brass at Penkeville gives her death in 1622. Her age is not very clearly 
stated, but apparently as seventy-seven. Her son Nicholas, if grandfather 
of Tristram, would have been of an age, in 1582, to have been father of 
Peter, who died 1628, and whose wife Joanna, mother of Tristram, died in 
Boston, 1 66 1, aged seventy-seven, having been born in 1584. 


If thus, or in any other way, connected with the Coffins, the house of 
Tregothnan is too historical, and associated with too many important events 
in our colonial annals, not to make it worthy of note. Lord Falmouth, 
under Queen Anne, Edward, the commander of the British fleet in the sec- 
ond reduction of Louisbourg, in more recent days, have added to the lustre 
of a name prolific in naval heroes and eminent statesmen. The importance 
we attach to this supposed connection is that it affords clews to ascertain the 
relation of Tristram to Alwington, and as Petronel, the sister of Mrs. Peter 
Coffin, married Peter Mayhowe, a possible explanation how Thomas May- 
hew and Tristram Coffin here together planted Nantucket, Tuckett's 
Devon Visitations, full as to the main male line of Alwington, are being 
carried back, extended out, and brought down by Colonel Vivyan, who is 
approaching the Coffins. My suggestions may help his researches, and 
they are given for what they are worth. 

But who was the father of Peter Coffin, who married Mary Bos- 
cawen? He must have been born about 1500. If among the recorded 
members of the family are found individuals whose dates or other known 
circumstances are inconsistent with the parentage of Peter, that reduces the 
field of investigation. Sceptical minds reject hypothesis in such researches, 
but often hypothesis, fairly tested, is the only path to the truth. At Monk- 
ley, about ten miles east from Portlege, one of the homes of its junior 
branches, dwelt at the time James, son of Richard and Miss Chudleigh, 
whose brother John married Mary Cary. His wife, Mary Cole, was the near 
kinswoman of William, who married Radigan, daughter of Nicholas Bos- 
cawen. Tristram named his sons after his ancestors, James was his fourth 
son. These circumstances amount to nothing as proof, but may lead to it, 
or perhaps confirm the conclusion of Mr. Allen Coffin, that the connection 
with Alwington, if any, is much more remote. Near the close will be 
found an article on this and other kindred topics, portions of which by his 
permission I insert. 

In the sequel will be found the visitation of the Coffins of Portlege. 
Its examination will show other grounds on which we rest our faith as to 
the parentage of Peter, It will be seen that in the sixth generation John 
Coffin married Philippa, daughter and co-heiress of Phillip Kingston, His 
eldest son Richard, Sheriff of Devon in 1511 (2 Hen. VIII.), married Wil- 
mot, daughter of Sir Richard Chudleigh, famous in legal annals as party 
in a leading case which bears his name. This marriage took place about 
15 10, The Sheriff had three sons, John, James, and Edward. The second, 
James, born as late as 15 12, might well have been father of Peter, who, 
about 1562, married Mary Boscawen. Their son Nicholas, if born in 1563, 



would have been old enough in 1585 to have been father of Peter, who, 
the father of Tristram, died in 1628. Wedlock came early when there 
were few other distractions. Under favorable circumstances life was often 
prolonged beyond the average limit ; but war, exposure, perhaps inferior 
medical skill, backwardness of medical science, sufficiently explain why so 
many failed to live out their allotted span. As the line consists mainly 
of eldest sons, less time embraced these several generations. 

The best known of the brothers of the Sheriff, Sir William, born about 
1480, going to Court, stood high in the estimation of Henry the Eighth. 
Like Raleigli, later from the same province, he won his way by his wit and 
courao'e. He was selected in 15 19 by the King as one of the eighteen 
Eno-lish knights to take part in the tournament before Guines, in France, 
with a like number of French gentlemen, practised in arms and re- 
nowned for prowess. He was Master of Horse at the coronation of Anne 
Boleyn, and appointed one of the gentlemen of the King's Privy Chamber, 
filled to the monarch's satisfaction a position of distinction and influence 
much coveted at Court. He married Margaret, the daughter of Sir George 
Dimock, th^ champion of England, and from her, after his death the wife 
of Richard Manners, descended the later Dukes of Rutland. Sir William 
took a prominent part in the Parliament, one ecclesiastical abuse being 
done away with at his instance.* At Standon, a royal manor, of which he 
was high steward when he died in 1538, stands his monument. He left no 
children, and by his will devised his lands to his brother Richard's sons, 
bequeathed his hawks, hounds, and hunting gear to the King. His 
brothers James and Thomas had children, but the dates confirm the view 
that his nephew, James, and Mary Cole were the parents of Peter, who 
married Mary Boscawen. 

Doubtless there were other branches of the name, from among which 
we might look for the ancestry of Tristram. His earliest progenitors in 
England came over with the Conqueror in 1066. Captain Henry Coffin, 
in his memoir of General John Cofl[in, 1880, says that several years before 
he had visited Falaise, in Normandy, and near that place lay estates owned 
eight centuries earlier by the Cofiins, before they crossed over the Channel 
to the land of promise. These estates were still the property of their de- 
scendants in the female line. Falaise will be remembered as the birth- 
place of the Conqueror. It is said that the name of CoflSn was a corrup- 
tion or translation of Colvinus, signifying a basket or chest, and that from 

* This act, limiring the amount of mortuaries, the fees of the parish priest for burial, has been counted one 
of three statutes mentioned by the historians as ecclesiastical reforms which, from the abuses done away and 
the debates they provoked, helped to bring about the Reformation. 


charge of the King's treasure — such employment, like royalty itself, being 

hereditary the name attached to the family. The confidence impUed 

by its responsible duties seems explained by the integrity which has 
been characteristic of all their successive generations. Such virtue was its 
own reward, and if too generous to be noted for many instances of afflu- 
ence, they even in that regard were prospered as they multiplied and 
spread over the earth. 

Of the first who came over to England little seems known. Westcote 
tells us that Alwington in 1085, according to Domesday, was possessed 
by David De la Bere, and that the heiress of that name brought it to the 
Coffins. On a subject less grave this might be suspected for a jest, 
but the authority is proof. Sir William Pole, page 386, states that 
Sir Richard Coffin held two knights' fees there from Robert, the King's 
son, in the reign of Henry 11. Whether earlier than this or later, flourished 
branches of that name at Combe Coffin, now Combe Pine, in the east of 
Devon ; at Coffin Well, in the south, and at Ingarley in the west. Sir 
Hugh, Sir EUas, Sir Geoffry, are mentioned in the records later than the 
first of a long line of Richards who, with some breaks in the continuity of 
name and knighthood, held Alwington and dwelt there. At Coffin's Ingar- 
ley once stood a noble mansion, with a church near by, surrounded by an 
extensive deer park. Its lord, Sir Elias, about 1200, bore gilded spurs in 
token of his military rank, and Sir Hugh, of Combe Coffin, his contempo- 
rary, was similarly distinguished. They may have been offshoots of Al- 
wington, or that branch of theirs. From among them might possibly have 
proceeded our branch in this country, but we think not. 

It must not be forgotten that in the pedigree of Coffin in " the Devon 
Visitations" there is mention made of a Nicholas, who, so far as regards 
dates, could not have been Tristram's grandfather. Richard, the sheriff, 
1511, was born in all probability thirty years at the least before he was 
made sheriff. His son John, born about 15 10, married Mary Cary, and 
their second son, John, born after 1569, was not of an age before 1589 to 
be married. His wife was Grace Berry, daughter of Richard of Berrynar- 
bor. Their third son, Nicholas, aged seven when the visitation was made, 
probably in 1620, must have been born in 1613, in which year Nicholas, 
father of Peter, who died in 1628, and grandfather of our Tristram, passed 

It is well also to bear in mind, in connection with this inquiry as to 
the ancestry of Tristram, that Anna, daughter of Sir William Chudleigh, 
who died in 15 15, married James Coffin, of Portlege, brother of the 
Sheriff. Her niece Wilmot, daughter of Sir Richard Chudleigh, who died 


1558, was the wife of the Sheriff. As the eldest son of Sir Richard Chud- 
leigh, Christopher, was thirty years and more at his father's death, Wihnot 
mif^ht seem to have been much younger than her husband. Still, the ex- 
pression, " thirty years and more," in legal documents, at the period, was 
very indefinite. It seemed to leave open the question whether James 
Coffin and Anna Chudleigh are among the possibilities for the parentage 
of Peter, great-grandfather of Tristram, James, the Sheriff's son, and Mary 
Cole, or others yet to be discovered. 




But why seek to trace Tristram's lineage to Alwington ? The beauty 
of the place, the character of its long line of proprietors through seven 
hundred years — one of the very few instances, even in England, in which an 
estate has remained for so great a length of time in the same family — which 
has never been sold, sequestered, or confiscated, or passed except by in- 
heritance, will, or family settlement, which has continued not only their 
chief but constant habitation, suggests a. home so enduring, qualities so 
sterling, that in a world changeable as this it is solacing to every conserva- 
tive element in our nature to believe we too belong to it. 

Alwington extends along the Severn Sea, south of the boundary between 
Somerset and Devon, fronting the broad Atlantic. The mighty billows roll 
in majestic force against its cliffs and crags. The domain now embraces 
thirty-eight * hundred acres, part in fertile farms with substantial steadings ; 
part in park and pleasure-grounds, studded with forest trees in clumps and 
woods. Its area may have expanded in prosperous days, or been shorn 
down to provide for junior branches ; but its grounds are substantially the 
same now as under the Plantagenets, or when it first came to the Coffins 
with the heiress of the De la Beres. 

When we call to mind what this beautiful region embraces from the 
Severn Sea to its southern shores, Exmoor and Dartmoor, which Black- 
more and Kingsley have so brilliantly described, its romantic streams and 
majestic hills, with their wild sublimity — and who has not read " Lorna 
Doon " — we can well consider it a privilege that such associations cluster 
about our own ancestral memories, that the Coffins and so many Americans 
from Devon have such good reason to be proud of their mother-country, 
feel deeper interest in their progenitors that they dwelt amid scenes so 
picturesque. Our kinswoman, Mrs. Johnson, will pardon me if I draw 
in part from her own eloquent account of Portlege what will convey a 
more perfect idea of the place. 

The approach from Bideford in Somersetshire south to Portlege, the 
manor-house of Alwington, extends for four miles along a shaded road, lined 

* Late census. 



on either side with luxuriant hedges, branibled vines, and grasses. Half a 
mile from the house the road reaches the great gateway, which opens on 
grounds tastefully disposed ; for time and taste and means effect marvels 
about the old homes of England. Lawns and gardens in a fine state of 
cultivation spread around, with that depth of verdure and coloring peculiar 
to the proximity to the sea ; for in Devon the grape and peach, if protected, 
ripen beside the pear and plum. 

The house sets low for shelter from the blasts, and is not conspicuous until 
closely approached. The spirit of repose that it breathes, of the times that 
have passed, of the various vicissitudes of sorrow and enjoyment that have 
cheered or tried its generations, noted for their culture and refinement as 
they have come and passed from infancy to age, cannot escape your at- 
tention in the photograph of the edifice. 

About the same distance from the house, along the shore, stretches a 
beach looking out over the Atlantic, to which a shaded walk from the 
house winds among ferns and groves thick with shrubs and rich with vari- 
ous verdure. Seats judiciously disposed afford a resting-place for the 
enjoyment of the view and the breeze. About a mile away stands the old 
church, bosked in mossy foliage, quiet and secluded, no dwelling in sight, 
venerable with age, if too substantial for decay. Its pews of oak, black 
with time, are richly carved, as often seen in these ancient shrines. Here 
more than twenty generations have brought their children in arms to the 
font, their dead for sepulchre. Here their blooming maidens, their own or 
their tenants', have come to be joined in wedlock. The walls and floors of 
the edifice, as the burial ground around it, are crowded with slabs and monu- 
ments that relate, with the same touching simplicity, the annals of them 


Within the walls of the mansion, which are of stone, with coigns and 
buttresses and battlements, windows varied but harmonious, is a large, 
square entrance hall with gallery on the level of the second floor. This 
and the spacious dining-room are lined with family portraits ; men and 
women in antiquated garb, representing the blue eyes and characteristic 
features of the race. Carved doors abound of stately dimensions, and 
ceilin^^s of faded grandeur, displaying in many colors the emblazonments 
and quarterings of the family arms and of others of the best, connected with 
them by marriage. Many are derived from royal and noble progenitors — 
Pomeroys, Beaumonts, Chudleighs, Courtenays, Prideaux, Carys, Cham- 
pernouns, Cliffords, Bassets, Damerels, of Devon or adjacent counties. 
Imat^ination conjures up the throng of these personages, long mouldered, 
as on festal occasions they gathered to the banquet or the dance, roamed 


and wooed by the moonbeams, shot arrows at the targe, let loose the fal- 
con, or rode after the hounds. 

The ancient forms and arrangements of the mansion, modified to meet 
as well the requirements of modern taste and comfort as to retain what is old 
or quaint, combine to constitute Portlege a most agreeable home to dwell 
in. It was once famous for its precious and extensive library, its archives 
rich with the accumulations of many generations. Sad to say, about 1800, 
in the transfer under a settlement to another branch, the books were mostly 
sold and many documents dispersed. There still remain vast coffers of 
manuscript treasures, which in time must perish, but which should, before 
too late, be arranged, copied, translated into intelligible language, calen- 
dared, catalogued, and indexed. Some antiquary of the family may yet be 
born to the faith that he can devote his days to no better field of service to 
posterity than such a task. 

Before taking leave of Alwington, as Tristram's progenitors passed off 
from the ancestral stem, an enumeration of the succeeding generations 
from John and Mary Gary may be of interest. Their second son wedded 
Grace, daughter of Richard Berrie, of Berrianarbor ; Richard, the oldest, 
1569-1617 (forty-eight), Elizabeth, 1571-1651 (aged eighty), daughter of 
Leonard Loveis, of Cornwall. With the eight sons and seven daughters of 
Richard, as they grew into life, Portlege must have been gay, and as the 
daughters, at least, followed in rapid succession to their nuptials, not even 
what was disagreeable in the Stuart monarchs or the contentions of the land 
could have cast a shadow so remote from the court and battle-field. When 
the mother died, in 165 1, James, the fifth son and last survivor, erected in 
the church of Alwington a monument to the memory of his parents, with 
an inscription which tells in rude rhymes their story. The eldest of the two 
sons left two daughters, Jane and Elizabeth, and the inheritance passed to 
a second Richard, 1622-99, "Without an enemy while living, and univer- 
sally lamented when dead." His wife was Ann Prideaux, daughter of Ed- 
mund, of Padstow, 1645-1705, who died at the age of sixty. He was 
much esteemed, and in 1686 was sheriff of Devon under James II. 

The children of the sheriff and Ann Prideaux were Bridget, John, Ho- 
nora, and Richard. The eldest son married Ann Kellond, travelled exten- 
sively over Europe, stood well for character and scholarship, but died at 
the age of twenty-five in 1703. Honora married Richard Bennett; Dor- 
othy, Richard Pyne, from whom came the Pyne Goffins. Richard, who 
succeeded his brother John in 1 703, for seventy-three years was lord of 
Alwington, and died there in 1776 unmarried. He settled the estates first 
on the Bennetts, Robert and Richard, who died without children j and the 


reversion went to the Pynes descended from Honora, who took the name 
of Coffin. The present proprietor, born 1841, was the grandson of Rich- 
ard, great-grandson of the youngest daughter of the sheriff, who died 1699, 
and Ann Prideaux, who died 1705. As Mr. Pyne Coffin has a large fam- 
ily of fine heahhy children, there seems no chance of any of the male line 
of the Coffins ever succeeding to Alwington. 

It is believed the male representation of the family rests in some de- 
scendant of Peter Coffin, who about 1560 married Mary Boscawen. A few 
words remain to be said about them. Phillippa Carminow, mother of Mrs. 
Mary Coffin, was, as already mentioned, co-heiress of that part of the 
Courtenay estates which escaped forfeiture when the Marquis of Exeter, 
next to the crown, was beheaded. Plympton, near the home of Tristram, 
formed part of the Courtenay inheritance which Phillippa Carminow car- 
ried to Hugh Boscawen, of Tregothnan, 1469-1559, as his wife. Their 
home was at Penkevil, not far up the river from Brixton, and is still the 
home of the Lords of Falmouth, their representatives. Evidence is found 
in an inquisition of William and Mary, 1558, of the Coffins, of Portlege, 
holding lands at Plympton, which may have come through the Boscawen' s 
by this marriage, or perhaps may have led to it. At Plympton and Brixton 
Nicholas, grandfather of Tristram, and Peter, his father, resided ; and Tris- 
tram took, by the will of his father, Peter, subject to his mother's life es- 
tate, these lands, or a part of them, which it would seem likely came in this 
way or through the Hingstons. 

Many have searched for the ancestral line of Tristram among the rec- 
ords of Devonshire. No one has as yet been able, as already stated, to 
trace with certainty his pedigree beyond that of his grandfather, Nicholas 
Coffyn. Sir Isaac, in memorializing the College of Arms, in 1804, for the 
grant of a coat for himself, represented that he was by tradition descended 
from the family of Coffin, of the west of England, but that he was unable 
to ascertain his descent. No doubt seems entertained, however, that the 
proper investigation of the matter will some time reveal Tristram's true 
pedigree extending much further back ; if not that suggested, what is now 
unknown will prove as honorable as that which we now know with reason- 
able certainty. 

Tristram Coffyn, of Butler's Parish, of Brixton, County of Devon, Eng- 
land, made his will November 16, 1601, which was proved at Totness, in 
the same county, in 1602. 

He left legacies to Joan, Anne, and John, children of Nicholas Cof- 
fyn ; Richard and Joan, children of Lionel Coffyn ; Philip Coffyn, and 
his son Tristram ; and appointed Nicholas, son of Nicholas Coffyn, his 


executor. He was probably the great-uncle of the first of the race in 

Nicholas Coffyn, of Brixton (one account says Butler's Parish), in 
Devonshire, in his will, dated September 12, 1613, and proved November 
3, 1613, mentions his wife Joan, and sons Peter, Nicholas, Tristram, John, 
and daughter Anne. He was the grandfather of the emigrant to New 
England, and born about 1560, probably the son of Mary Boscawen. He 
lived to the end of the reign of the Tudors, and saw the reign of the 
Stuarts commenced in the person of James VI. of Scotland and I. of Eng- 
land. He died in the reign of James I. (16 13). His eldest son, Peter, 
doubtless succeeded to his estates ; and his youngest son, John, acquired 
some estate, as he made our Tristram his executor. The other sons, 
Nicholas and Tristram, have not been accounted for ; neither has his 
daughter Anne. ** 

Peter Coffyn, of Brixton, in his will, dated December i, 1627, and 
proved March 13, 1628, provides that his wife Joan (Thember) shall have 
possession of the land during her life, and then the said property shall go 
to his son and heir, Tristram, " who is to be provided for according to his 
degree and caUing." His son John is to have certain property when he 
becomes twenty years of age. He mentions his daughters Joan, Deborah, 
Eunice, and Mary, and refers to his tenement in Butler's Parish, called 
Silferhay. He was the father of the emigrant. 

John Coffyn, of Brixton, an uncle of the emigrant, who died without 
issue, in his will, dated January 4, 1628, and proved April 3, 1628, ap- 
points his nephew, Tristram Coffyn, his executor, and gives legacies to all 
of Tristram's sisters, all under twelve years of age. 



What motives induced Tristram, in 1642, to dispose of so pleasant an 
abode and come to America can be conjectured, but are not positively 
known. It has been said that he had been employed as colonel in com- 
mand of the garrison at Plymouth, but this is not authenticated, and may 
have referred to his uncle Tristram ; but we do know that in its defence 
his only brother, John, had been slain. Tristram had married, at the early 
period customary in those primitive times, Dionis Stevens, and had already 
five children — Peter, Tristram, Elizabeth, James, and John. 

As his brother John was killed at Plymouth Fort, it may be that 
Tristram was iu the fight. The Stuarts made sorry kings, and the resist- 
ance they provoked to their arbitrary rule seems justified. But England 
was seething on the verge of twenty years of contention, and Tristram, not 
over-fond of either party, and imperilled by the part he had taken, with 
ten women and children in his charge, may have been glad to escape 
persecution for them and himself in America. Two of his four sisters 
married in Devon. Two, Mary and Eunice, with their mother, his wife, 
and five children, accompanied him in 1642, the year King Charles placed 
himself in open array against the parliament. 

That he came in that of the four vessels — Hector, Griffin, Job Clement, 
and Margaret Clement, belonging to Captain Robert Clement, that came 
over in 1642, which Captain Clement himself commanded — is well authenti- 
cated. It is known that after a brief residence at Salisbury, he moved up 
the river that year to v/hat is now the next town, Haverhill, to form that 
settlement with Clement, on land bought from the Sachem Pasconaway. 

With this large and dependent family of nine women and children, Tris- 
tram crossed the sea, disembarking at the mouth of the Merrimac, where 
Ihey so long made their home. The births of his other children born in 
America show the different periods he resided in Salisbury, Haverhill, on 
the north of the river, and at Newbury, to its south. We have no 
knowledge of his going far from that neighborhood during the next sixteen 
years, till he went to Nantucket, though it seems reasonable to suppose 
that he did so. 


The property they brought sufficed to support in comfort the families of 
his mother and his own, and to estabUsh respectably in marriage, as they 
grew up, his sisters and his sons. Pie first settled himself at Salisbury, in 
the three-mile space between the Merrimack and the New Hampshire 
border, as fixed by the patent ; but removed that year to Haverhill, adjoin- 
ing Salisbury, up the river, for in 1642, in November, his name is attached 
to an Indian deed there. There Marj'-, afterward Mrs. Starbuck, was 
born, and John the first having died, another took his place. In 1648 
Tristram removed to Newbury, where his youngest son, Stephen, was added 
to the family group. After residing there for several years, during which 
he was licensed to keep an inn and a ferry over the Merrimack, Tristram 
returned to Salisbury, where he became a county magistrate. 

Salisbury was close to the border of New Hampshire, and his eldest son, 
Peter, a merchant and king's counsellor in Dover, in that province, not 
far removed from Salisbury, married, about 1657, Abigail, daughter of 
Edward Starbuck ; and his second son, Tristram, in 1653, Judith, daughter 
of Captain Edmund Greenleaf, widow of Henry Somerby. The descend- 
ants of this marriage of Tristram, Jr.'s, have ever since occupied this 
fine old mansion which Somerby had left her, or her father, Captain 
Greenleaf, bestowed. 

Edward Starbuck had come over from Derbyshire in 1640, and estab- 
lished himself at Dover. Elder of the Church and Representative, he 
became a Baptist, and soon after a Quaker. Both he and Thomas Macy 
are said to have been among the chief promoters of the settlement of Nan- 
tucket,* It was no doubt often discussed, and perhaps slowly brought about. 
Nantucket, an island fifteen miles by four, embracing an area of about 
thirty thousand acres, lay at the southern extremity of what is now Massa- 
chusetts. It was then part of New York, and so remained till 1692. When 
the project was ripe, and it was concluded to purchase, Tristram, early in 
1659, made a voyage of inquiry and observation to the group of islands ofT 
the Massachusetts coast with this view. He first visited Martha's Vine- 
yard, whither Thomas Mayhew (1591-1681-90), formerly a merchant in 
Southampton in England, had, in 1647, removed from Watertown to preach 
to and convert the Indians. The name of his first wife, Martha Parkurst, 
he doubtless gave to the vineyard where he so long dwelt gathering souls 
from the heathen. 

* Fifteen miles by eleven in the widest part, and twenty miles south of the peninsular of Cape Cod, 120 
miles S.S.E. of Boston. Latitude 41° 13' to 41° 22' N.; longitude 69° 56' to 70° 13'. Population, 1820, 
7,266. In 1824 Sir Isaac was there ; in 1826, 352 vessels engaged in the fisheries, 2,392 in the coasting 
trade, entered its port. This was before the era of steam.— Lieber's Enc. Am. 


We are inclined to believe, though we have no conclusive proof, that 
the attention of Tristram was first called to Nantucket by Mayhew, and the 
question suggests itself whether it had not been from consanguinity that 
Mayhew proposed or urged the settlement. He held, in 1649, ^ convey- 
ance of Nantucket, as he did of Martha's Vineyard, from Lord Sterling. 
Born in 1591, Petronel Boscawen, sister of Mary, may have been his 
mother or grandmother. That Mary Boscawen was Tristram's great-grand- 
mother seems more than probable. Southampton, by sea, is not far from 
Plymouth. It is the seaport of Wiltshire. Mayhew named two towns on 
the Vineyard from places in that county. 

Mayhew and Mayhowe bear the same arms, and are corruptions or varia- 
tions of the same name. If Thomas Mayhew, born 1 591, was son or grand- 
son of that Petronel Boscawen, sister of Mrs. Peter Coffin, who married 
Peter Mayhowe, as mentioned in Collins, Mayhew would have been kins- 
man of Tristram not remote. Whether this be so or not, Thomas Mayhew, 
having procured for himself and son, in 1641, from Lord Sterling and Sir 
Ferdinando Gorges, conveyances of both the islands, Martha's Vineyard 
and Nantucket, eighteen years later (July 2, 1659) conveyed Nantucket to 
Tristram Coffin and his associates, reserving about a tenth part for himself. 
He sent Peter Folger, grandfather of Benjamin Franklin, who had come 
with him from Watertown, and was familiar with the Indian languages, with 
Tristram to explore. Tristram, soon after reaching Nantucket, purchased 
of Potinot, an Indian sagamore, the island of Tuckernuck, at its westerly 
end, containing a thousand acres. 

Whether James Coffin came with his father, Tristram, at that time, or 
later in the fall with Thomas Macy, Edward Starbuck, and Isaac Colman, 
after his father's return to SaUsbury, is not clear, but James remained through 
the winter on the island as they did. May 10, 1660, the sachems of Nan- 
tucket conveyed to the associates for ;^8o a large part of the island,^Peter 
Folger being witness. 



Early in 1660, Tristram, with his family, came to Nantucket. Possibly 
some delay took place, as regarded them, in providing habitations. It was 
not long, however, before enough of the settlers and their families had ar- 
rived for their security and to plant their crops. Besides Tuckernuck, the 
Coffins had thus a quarter of the island, and much more in the sequel be- 
came theirs. Tristram took the lead from the first among the settlers, and 
was frequently selected to transact important public business. His letters 
to the colonial government of New York, of which province Nantucket 
was then a dependency, are preserved in the archives of the Department 
of State at Albany. 

Although from the earliest settlement regarded as their leader and head 
by his associates, his first appointment by the Governor at Albany as 
chief magistrate of Nantucket was as early as 1671. Thomas Mayhew 
held the like office at the Vineyard. These officials, with two assistants 
from each island, constituted a general court, with appellate jurisdiction 
over both. This court sat in each island alternately, its chief magistrate 
presiding. In 1677 he succeeded Thomas Macy as the chief, and we find 
on the records of Nantucket an official oath of his, which reads as follows : 

"Whereas I, Tristram Coffin Senior, have received a commission dated 
the 16"' of September 1677 investing me with power to be Chief Magis- 
trate on the Island of Nantucket and its dependencies for the four years 
ensuing, under further order, I, Tristram Coffin aforesaid do engage my- 
self under the penalty of perjury to do justice in all causes that come be- 
fore me according to law, and endeavor to my best understanding, and 

hereunto I have subscribed — " 

Tristram Coffin 

Subscribed before Chief Magistrate. 

his son Peter. 

William, John 

and Stephen 

being his bondsmen. 

Exemplary in his own habits, Tristram respected the rights of other 

22 THE LIFE 01< 

men to regulate their lives according to the dictates of their own con- 
sciences, where not conflicting with the law. When in the inn he had es- 
tablished by the Merrimack, for the convenience of travellers over the 
ferry, complaint was made that threepence was charged the quart for 
beer instead of two as stipulated in the license, which required four bushels 
of malt to the hogshead, his wife, through the brewer, proving that she put 
in six bushels, it was dismissed. At Nantucket, where there were, accord- 
ing to tradition, two or three thousand Indians, under their several saga- 
mores, their proclivity to stronger beverages degrading and brutalizing, led 
to frequent disputes among themselves, and aggressions upon the settlers, 
then a mere handful compared with their own numbers. The court records 
are largely occupied with the trials and sentences of Indians to be whipped 
for intemperance, or for offences growing out of it. Repressive laws, one 
drawn up by Tristram, were not without effect. Thomas Macy, in a letter 
in 1776 to Governor Lovelace, at Albany, states that they had been at- 
tended with good results. That same year John Gardner, whose grave- 
stone is that of the earliest date remaining, complains to Dudley that his 
own stock had been seized by Macy, and says that the sachems declare 
they will fight if the law is enforced. 

The manifest improvement in the habits both of the red man and the 
white was no doubt due in a large measure to other influences than the 
severities of the law. Tristram, as the wealthiest of the proprietors, used 
his means generously for the common advantage. If mills to grind the 
corn, harrows, or other implements of agriculture were needed, it was he 
who furnished them. Wlien the Indians grew restless and menacing, he 
held them in subjection and peace in such manner as commanded their 
respect. He employed large numbers in his farming operations, and 
built them on his own land improved wigwams. Benjamin Franklin Fol- 
ger, one of the best and latest of the historians of the island, in speaking 
of his relations to the Indians, says the Christian character which he ex- 
hibited, and which he practically illustrated in all the various circumstances 
and conditions of the infant colony, is analogous to that which subse- 
quently distinguibhed the founder of Pennsylvania, so that the spirit of one 
seemed but the counterpart of the other. 

He had had his trials, but bore them with courage and humility. One 
has been remembered, which caused him much annoyance and loss. It 
grew out of an official act which forced him to sacrifice his property, and 
was one of omission rather than commission. A ship was wrecked on 
Nantucket shoals, in September, 1678, loaded with hides, and the chief 
magistrate allowed the inhabitants to save the wreckage. Portions of the 


cargo and rigging were embezzled. A Court of Admiralty held the chief 
magistrate responsible, and the parties who had derived the benefit of 
wrecking the vessel refusing to bear any part of the fine, the burden fell 
upon Tristram Coffyn alone. His own testimony in the case seems to 
have been all the evidence against him upon which the decision was made 
up. No one of his descendants will read the story, as officially recorded, 
without a feeling of pride that their great ancestor, under a most distress- 
ing ordeal, in which both his fortune and his honor were at stake, saved 
his honor. And the Governor of New York discharged him from the 
award of the Admiralty upon his representation. 

Through these documents, preserved for more than two centuries, we 
get a glimpse of the spirit of the times which our Nantucket ancestors 
impressed wiih their own personality. And, while the first settlers were 
not all agreed upon the subjects of public policy which subsequently 
entered into the political concerns of the island, and while their dissen- 
sions oftentimes assumed a degree of acrimony and vindictiveness painful 
to reflect upon, they were very generally men of sturdy character and 
heroic lives. Looking back through the dim vista of two hundred years, 
we shall behold a galaxy of names illumined by high resolves — names that 
have not tarnished with time, nor faded from the world with the friction of 
the centuries — names that were not born to die. We shall see engraven 
high up on the world's escutcheon the names of Macy, Starbuck, Folger, 
Gardner, Swain, Hussey, Coleman, Barnard ; and then, still higher up, 
resplendent with innumerable descending rays of light and love and Chris- 
tian sympathy, extending throughout the broad universe, we shall see the 
name of Tristram Coffyn. 

In 1 66 1 Tristram lost his mother, Joanna Thember, who died in Bos- 
ton at the age (i 584-1 661) of seventy-seven. His daughter Elizabeth, 
born in England, 1634, died at the age of forty-four, the wife of Stephen 

The very admirable Mary Coffin, born at Haverhill, in 1644, married 
soon after their arrival at Nantucket, at the age of eighteen, Nathaniel, son 
of Edward Starbuck. Their daughter Mary was the first European child born 
on the island. Tristram gave them two hundred acres, near half his own al- 
lotment, at Capaum Pond, and there they resided near him about twenty 
years, till his death. Of noble character and disposition, superior powers, 
and extended influence, Mary was peerless in all the graces of woman- 
hood, and also an eloquent preacher among the Quakers. Her husband was 
every way a fitting companion for one so gifted and admirable. I'heir 
daily associations with Tristram and his wife, Dionis, must have been a 


mutual advantage and solace to them. She died in 171 7, at the age of 
seventy-two, her husband two years later, at eighty-three. 

As Tristram began to feel "the symptoms of a strong man failing," a 
phrase used by Sir Walter Scott in reply to an inquiry as to his own health, 
made in the presence of the writer, he disposed of his estate, not by formal 
testament, but by deeds, the consideration always being his regard and 
natural affection. He had made large provision for his daughter, Mary 
Starbuck, and provided homes for those of his other children who needed 
his aid ; he now conveyed most of what remained to his two youngest 
sons, John and Stephen, to take after the decease of himself and wife. 
In this he followed an ancient practice in England before wills were much 
in use — disposing of his estate while he lived, reserving the use for life. 
In the earlier English conveyancing the owner released to the crown, 
holding the eminent demesne, a new grant being then issued to the new 
feoffee specifying the terms and conditions previously agreed. 




Tristram lived out his four years as Chief Magistrate, and as his term 
reached its close, his venerable form was borne from his home near Capaum 
Pond to the graveyard, half a mile away on the ridge. The actual spot 
can no longer be identified. The earliest stone remaining, that of John 
Gardner, dates twenty-five years later. Tradition points out a depression 
in the ground where is said to have stood Tristram's dwelling, another 
where once existed the Quaker meeting-house ; but all around has been 
long since abandoned for human habitations. 

We can easily conjure up that throng of noble men and women, devout 
and sad, his sons and daughters, their children, friends, and kinsfolk, who 
accompanied his remains to their last resting-place. But Tristram needs 
no monument to perpetuate his memory. The thousands and tens of thou- 
sands who look back with pride and affection to him, their honored progen- 
itor, multiplying with their generations, will keep in perennial bloom the 
fragrance of his active and useful life, of his traits and works. 

He had had manifold blessings. His mother, Joanna ; his wife, Dionis ; 
his sisters, who came over with him from Devon, Eunice, Mrs. William 
Butler, Mary, Mrs. Alexander Adams, were in every way excellent and 
devoted. Mary, his seventh child, born in Haverhill in 1645, for nearly 
twenty years after her marriage, at the age of seventeen, to Nathaniel, the 
son of Edward Starbuck and Catharine Reynolds, was his near neighbor 
and constant companion. Mr. Allen Coffin justly describes her, in his 
life of Tristram, when he thus speaks of her : 

" She was a most extraordinary woman, participating in the practical 
duties and responsibiUties of public gatherings and town meetings, on 
which occasions her words were always listened to with marked respect. 
The genius of whatever attaches to the Equal Rights for Women move- 
ment of the present day, in every true and proper sense, she anticipated 
by two centuries, and reduced to practice without neglecting her domestic 
relations. She was consulted upon all matters of public importance, be- 
cause her judgment was superior, and she was universally acknowledged to 
be a great woman. It was not that her husband, Nathaniel Starbuck, was 


a man of inferior mould that she gained such prominence, for he was a 
man of good ability ; but because of her pre-eminent qualifications that 
she acquired so good a reputation, whereby her husband's qualifications 
were apparently lessened. In the language of John Richardson, an early 
preacher, ' The islanders esteemed her as a judge among them, for little 
of moment was done without her.' In the town meetings, which she was 
accustomed to attend, she took an active part in the debates, usually com- 
mencing- her address with, * My husband thinks' so and so; or, 'My 
husband and I, having considered the subject, think' so and so. From 
every source of information, as also from tradition, there is abundant evi- 
dence that she was possessed of sound judgment, clear understanding, and 
an elegant way of expressing herself, perfectly easy and natural to her. 

"At the age of fifty-six, she became interested in the religious faith of 
the Quakers, or Friends, and took the spiritual concerns of the whole 
island under her special superintendence. She held meetings at her own 
house, which are often alluded to by visiting Friends who have written con- 
cerning the island's early religious history ; wrote the quarterly epistles, and 
preached in a most eloque it and impressive manner ; and, withal, was as 
distinguished in her domestic economy as she was celebrated as a preacher. 
Of this department, John Richardson, who preached at her house, wrote : 
' The order of the house was such in all the parts thereof as I had not 
seen the like before ; the large and bright-rubbed room was set with suit- 
able seats or chairs for a meeting, so that I did not see anything wanting 
according to place, but something to stand on, for I was not free to set my 
feet upon the fine cane chair, lest 1 should break it.' Enough might be 
written concerning her to make an entertaining volume by itselt, which 
may some time be attempted." 

Hon. Peter Cofifin, the oldest child of Tristram, born at Brixton in 
163 1, married Abigail, daughter of Edward and Catharine Starbuck, of 
Dover, N. H., afterward of Nantucket. Peter was one of the original pur- 
chasers of Nantucket, and tradition says the wealthiest of them, owning 
large mill property. He was a merchant at Dover before the purchase, 
and subsequently lived at Nantucket, but only for a short time to be con- 
sidered as domiciled there. He was made freeman in 1666 at Dover, a 
lieutenant in 1675 on service in King Philip's Indian War, a representa- 
tive in the Legislative branch in 1672-73, and again in 1679. In 1690 he 
removed to Exeter, N. H. From 1692 to 17 14 he was at different times 
associate justice and chief-justice of the Supreme Court of New Hamp- 
shire, and a member of the Governor's Council. He died at Exeter, 
March 21, 1715, but most of his life was passed at Dover. 


His second child, called the younger Tristram, was born in England in 
1632. He married in Newbury, Mass., March 2, 1652, Judith Somerby, 
widow of Henry, and daughter of Edmund and Sarah Greenleaf. She was 
born in 1625, and died in Newbury, December 15, 1705. He was made 
freeman April 29, 1668, and died in Newbury, February 4, 1704, aged sev- 
enty-two, leaving one hundred and seventy-seven descendants. He was a 
merchant tailor, and filled many positions of trust and honor in Newbury. 
The early records of Newbury bear evidence of his identity with the interests 
of that town. In the severe ecclesiastical contest concerning Rev. Thomas 
Parker, of Newbury, Tristram Coffin, Jr., bore a conspicuous part in the 
interest of Mr. Parker, of whose First Church of Newbury he was deacon 
for twenty years. 

This Tristram built, about 1654, according to the able historian of 
Newbury, the old Coffin mansion, which has remained in the family to 
the present day ; one of the ninth generation born under its ample roof. 
Miss Anna I. Coffin, now occupying it. It is said to have been built in 
1649 by Henry Somerby, whose widow, it will be remembered, Tristram 
Coffin, Jr., married. It is one of the few old houses left, and is built 
around a vast chimney-stack, with spacious fire-places, with windows large 
and small, opening in pleasant surprises, some on closets and some on 
staircases, and with walls that, when stripped of their papering not many 
years ago for the purpose of repapering, were found to display such elegant 
landscape frescos, with artistic designs of figures and foliage, as were wont 
to decorate fine residences in the days of the Stuarts. It is a matter Oi 
tradition that Tristram Coffyn, Sr., lived in this mansion a short time be- 
fore his final removal to Nantucket. 

Two monuments in the graveyard of the first parish of Newbury, bear 
these several inscriptions, with epitaphs in verse : 

"To the memory of Tristram Coffin, Esq., who having served the First 
Church of Newbury in the office of a deacon for twenty years, died Febru 
ary 4, 1 703-4, aged seventy-two years." 

"To the memory of Mrs.,, Judith, late virtuous wife of Deacon Tris- 
tram Coffin, Esq., who having lived to see 177 of her children, and chil- 
dren's children, to the third generation, died December 15, 1705, aged 

If sandy and not very responsive to the plough, Nantucket has been 
ever famous for its flocks and herds. Its most abundant harvests were 
nevertheless from the ocean. Even before Tristram passed away, " Lost 
at Sea " was a frequent epitaph for its dauntless mariners. They possessed 
many ships of their own ; sailed many from other places. 


In his well-known burst of eloquence in Parliament, Burke, in 1774, 

pays just tribute : 

" Look at the manner in which the New England people carry on the 
whale fishery. While we follow them among the tumbling mountains of 
ice, and behold them penetrating into the deepest frozen recesses of Hud- 
son Bay and Davis Strait, while we are looking for them beneath the 
Arctic Circle, we hear that they have pierced into the opposite region of 
polar cold ; that they are at the antipodes, and engaged under the frozen 
serpent of the South. Falkland Islands, which seem too remote and too 
romantic an object for the grasp of national ambition, is but a stage and 
restino--place for their victorious industry. Nor is the equinoctial heat 
more discouraging to them than the accumulated winter of both the poles. 
We learn that while some of them draw the line or strike the harpoon on 
the coast of Africa, others run the longitude and pursue their gigantic game 
along the coast of Brazil." 

Their gigantic game has been almost exterminated, as the buffaloes on 
the prairie. Other ports have attracted their trade, and the population is 
now but one-half of what it was in its palmiest prosperity. But its children 
are not degenerate, though forced to seek other fields for their victorious 
industry. Everywhere are to be found accomplished ship-masters of its 
familiar names. William Coffin, who first settled in Boston, as his father 
Nathaniel, who died in Nantucket (1721) at the age of fifty-five, traversed 
the sea in command of vessels. The proximity of their ancestral home in 
Devon to the shores may have implanted in their blood tastes and aptitudes 
for maritime adventure, which gained strength as they found wider employ- 
ment on this side the Atlantic. 

Gardners, Macys, Bunkers, no less than the Coffins, thus showed the 
mettle of their pasture. Nor was the invigorating influences of its climate, 
tempered as it was by the Gulf Stream, confined to its vikings. Daughters 
as well as sons of Dorcas and Damaris won eminence in their various pur- 
suits. No more admirable examples of womanhood than Mary Coffin and 
Dorcas Starbuck have been transmitted for emulation. The Quaker faith, 
tried by persecution among the Puritans, found elements congenial in the 
pure, salt air, as in the anxieties and bereavements that attended life on the 
sea. Nor did they grow up in ignorance. Refinements from civilization 
beyond the Atlantic had become their inheritance through many genera- 
tions. Tristram Coffin, Thomas Mayhew, John, his grandson, from the 
Vineyard, these mothers in Israel themselves exhorted and prayed. Their 
simple trust, and the amiable disposition which these tenets fostered, 
fruited in generous deed and noble trait. We must all remember within 


our own experience men and women, even when separated by place and 
circumstances from the fold, still bearing unmistakable impress of their 
insular home, as also of its creed, in the beauty of their lives and well- 
regulated character. 

In such a healthy climate, surrounded by the ocean, leading lives of 
purity and peace, dauntless afloat, industrious ashore, the whole globe 
with its waters alike by their voyages made familiar to their ken, it is no 
marvel that their numbers multiplied, or that the young grew up in 
physical perfection to transmit their precious inheritance of health and 
strength and comeliness, of character and intellectual power, not only 
throughout their favored island, but over the country of which it formed 
so insignificant a part. 

It needs but a glance at the precious volume of the Coffins, Ewers, 
Folgers, and Gardners, to see how rapidly multiplied the races of these 
early settlers, and how few comparatively were the prolific possessors of 
the earth, our then progenitors. It presents for study a somewhat unusual 
example of intermarriages on so small a scale which have not deteriorated 
the stock. 

Among these was Edward Starbuck, who died there, 1690, at the age 
of eighty-six. His son Nathaniel, who married Mary Coffin, sold his 
brother-in-law, Peter Coffin, his estate at Dover, to accompany his father. 
With him came his sister Dorcas, who married William Gayer ; and their 
daughter, Dorcas Gayer, in the course of events married their cousin, 
Jethro Starbuck ; and her sister, Damaris Gayer, Nathaniel Coffin, son of 
James. The brother of William Gayer, Sir John,* who died 1 710, acquired 
a large fortune in Bombay, which he divided among his nephew William, 
son of William, and among his nieces Damaris and Dorcas. Their brother 
died in 1 712, in Kent, in England, after marrying his cousin Elisabeth. 
He left his New England property to his sisters and to each a thousand 
pounds. Peter Folger, in 1663, moved to Nantucket, and his youngest 
daughter, Abiah, and Josiah Franklin were the parents of Benjamin Frank- 
lin, Peter Folger's grandchild. Peter married Judith, daughter of Stephen 
Coffin, and the intermarriages between the descendants of the early pro- 
prietors of the island soon made akin all its inhabitants. 

Among others who came was Richard Gardner, eldest son of Thomas, 

♦ In London there is said still to exist a chapel erected by Sir John Gayer, Mayor in 1649, somewhat his- 
torical from the stand he took in trying times. Sir John Gayer, uncle of Mrs. Nathaniel Coffin, left fifteen 
thousand pounds for the nurture and education of students for the ministry in London, but he must be a 
generation later than the Mayor. The Mayor was from South Devon. He may have been father of this 
second Sir John, and William the father of Dorcas and Damaris, Mrs. Coffin, and Mrs. Surbuck, to whom 
Sir John, of Bombay, left considerable estates. 


who, in 1624, held office under Conant at Cape Ann. William Bunker, 
1 650-1 7 1 2, carried to Nantucket by his mother, Jane Godfrey (whose first 
husband, George, was drowned, 1658, when she married Richard Swaine), 
married, 1669, Mary, daughter of Thomas Macy. Richard Pinkham, 
of Dover ; Thomas Coleman, who had come out with Sir Richard Salton- 
stall, 1599-1682, and who left four sons; John Sanborne, of Hampton, 
by marriage, 1674, with Judith, daughter of the second Tristram Coffin, be- 
came also connected with the island. 




From Tristram's third son, James, came Sir Isaac. James was Judge 
of the Common Pleas, and for twelve years of Probate, and when forty 
years later he passed away, at the age of eighty, he was generally loved 
and respected. By his wife Mary, daughter of John Severance, one of the 
earliest settlers of Salisbury, he had fourteen children wedded with six 
Gardners, with Starbuck, two Bunkers, with Macy, Barnard, Clark, 1721, 
and Harker. The third son, Nathaniel, 1666-1721, by his wife Damaris, 
daughter of William Gayer and Dorcas Starbuck, and niece of Sir John 
Gayer, had four sons and five daughters. William, the eldest son of Na- 
thaniel, born in 1691, in 1722 married Ann, daughter of Francis Holmes, of 
Boston and South Carolina. This event brought William, grandfather of Sir 
Isaac, to Boston, where he dwelt in honor and affluence till 1774, father 
and grandfather of that memorable family among the refugee loyalists who 
took, some may think, the wrong side in our struggle for independence. 

When William Coffin, upon his marriage with Ann Holmes, took up his 
abode in Boston, the place had become a centre of trade, with nearly 
twenty thousand inhabitants. The towns along the shore and in the in- 
terior depended upon it for garments, and, in part, often for food. It was 
already metropolitan in fashion and in enlightenment. William's mother, 
Damaris Gayer, lived on at Nantucket till 1764, reaching the great age 
of ninety, universally beloved. She had derived a considerable estate, 
as related, from her uncle, her father, and brother ; but she had nine chil- 
dren to provide for. By his own prudence and good sense, and from his 
wife's inheritance, William soon acquired a competence. He jomed the 
Episcopal Church, and held the position for several years of senior 
warden of Trinit)'. His death in 1774, as the war broke out, saved him 
from witnessing the exile and widespread confiscation that awaited his 
sons. He had had thirteen children of his own, six of them married, who 
were also prolific. His children, and children's children, counted up 
about sixty when he died, about the same number as his great-grandfather 
Tristram's at his death a century before. But of William's descendants 
bearing the name of Coffin, all have died out in Massachusetts, and not 
many remain in England, Canada, or South Carolina. 



Nathaniel, second son of William Coffin, born in 1727, graduateTof 
Harvard College, 1744, received, in 1750, an honorary degree at Yale. 
Brought up a merchant, he was early appointed King's Cashier of the 
Customs and acquired considerable property. His wife was Elizabeth 
Barnes, whom he married in 1 748. They resided near the corner of Essex 
Street and Rainsford Lane, in Boston, where John and Sir Isaac were 
born. The tide of the inner harbor washed up to the garden-walls. 
Near by, in front, stood the Liberty tree, on the main street, which 
Nathaniel, the oldest brother of Sir Isaac, cut down in 1774. John, born 
1755, after winning great honors by his courage and conduct on the British 
side in the American Revolution, in its Southern campaigns from 1 780 to 
the peace, died the oldest general in the British Army in 1838. He had 
three sons and two daughters, and his descendant, Captain Henry Coffin, 
of the British Navy, published, as we have related, a memoir of him in 
1880. One other brother of Sir Isaac, and the youngest, Jonathan Perry, 
was a barrister of repute in London. His sisters, EHzabeth and Christian, 
died in 1826, unmarried. 

Their sister, Catherine, first married Richard Barwell, of Stansted, dis- 
tinguished in India, where three of his sons held positions of dignity and 
trust on the bench, in the treasury, and on the council board. Her 
second husband was Edward Miller Mundy. Catherine Coffin had only 
one child by Mr. Mundy, Admiral George, of Holly Bank, Hants, whose 
distinguished career in the naval service of England in the great war with 
Napoleon was wise and brave, and gained him great renown. Ann 
married Mr. Kallbeck. 

Isaac, the subject of this memoir, third son of Nathaniel, born in 
Boston in 1759, at eight years of age — in 1766 — entered the Boston Latm 
School. He was a diligent student -in a class that embraced numerous 
celebrities, and when in Parliament he acknowledged himself indebted to 
the methods and discipline of the Boston schools for his apt classical quo- 
tations, then a mode much in vogue in that august assemblage. His rapid 
progress and attainments in nautical science, which likewise remam 
recorded, may have been in some measure due to the mental training of 
Master Lovell in other branches of learning. 

His constitution was, however, too vigorous, his animal spirits too 
buoyant for scholarship alone to mark his schoolboy days. He led the 
sports of the playground, and on the fifth of November, the anniversary 
of the gunpowder plot, was more than once selected as the leader of the 
burlesque solemnities of the occasion, which was left to the boys of the 
town for fitting commemoration. 


His paternal abode, as mentioned near the corner of what is now Har- 
rison Avenue, at the then south end of the town, was near the Common, 
and in the frequent battles with foot- or snowball, or with fisticuffs, his 
activity and strength made him the champion of his party of Southenders, 
as they were called. 

Boston was a pleasant place to dwell in. Its hills, from which it de- 
rived one of its names, soon abandoned, rose far higher up above the sea, 
which then encompassed the thousand acres of land constituting its area. 
For comfort, security, or easy access to the harbor, the mass of its popula- 
tion clustered about the wharves or centres of trade. Broad stretches 
of tree or turf, sloping pastures, and blooming gardens surrounded the 
stately abodes of the wealthy. Tide-waters, fresh from the ocean, spread 
nearly around the peninsula. Beyond these basins wooded heights of 
considerable elevation lifted themselves above the boundless tree-tops, 
delighting the beholder with their graceful proportions. For fishing or 
shooting, rowing, sailing or swimming, coasting or skating, Boston and its 
environs of lakes and orchards was then the paradise for boys. It was a 
capital school for his play-hours, and the old Latin, the oldest school 
in the country, dating from 1635, for his studies of a graver sort. There 
fifteen of his cousins were his schoolmates, a host of our own celebrities, 
and four — Sheaffe, Morland, Mackay, and Ochterlony — who became baro- 
nets or generals by military service, at what was then called home. He 
was well placed for development, nor were his opportunities neglected. 

As he grew in wisdom and stature, the ingratitude of king and parlia- 
ment for the services which had added Canada to the realm created dis- 
content and disaffection. The settled policy of the ministry to subject 
the colonies to arbitrary rule, to exactions, violating the spirit and letter 
of their charters, sacrificing their industries for the benefit of merchants 
and manufacturers at home, provoked resentment, led to eventual resist- 
ance and separation. Commercial places, wealthy and intelligent, ex- 
pressed displeasure through the press, in caucus, and halls of legislation. 
Conversation and correspondence aroused the people to a sense of their 
wrongs, and sought to awaken England to the danger of losing so important 
a part of her dominions. Many, convinced independence must come sooner 
or later, inflamed the popular passions to bring it about. Others, with 
more to risk, no less determined in claiming their rights as British sub- 
jects, were yet hardly prepared to sever ties sacred from so many associa- 
tions. They loved the country of their ancestors, took pride in its history, 
and would have gladly averted the impending calamity. 

Loyalists and patriots alike, prompted by honorable motives, grew 



warm as they discussed the situation wherever men congregated. They 
were all the more wedded to their own several opinions by the heat and 
temper such discussion engendered. Liberty boys from the Green Drag- 
on, merchants and officials who addressed Governor Gage, represented 
the extreme views. But events hurried them on. The Stamp Act, too 
late and too grudgingly repealed, left its canker. The burning of Hutch- 
inson's costly books and mansion, citizens massacred by British troops, 
the tea thrown into the ocean, the Boston Port Bill that closed our harbor 
to navigation, kept at fever-heat the irritation, till twenty thousand of the ' 
bone and sinew of the land, from their encampments on its neighboring 
hills, beleagured the British fleet and garrison ; who, after another year, 
were forced by Washington to withdraw to Halifax. Three thousand of 
the inhabitants went with them, preferring exile and impoverishment to 
giving up their allegiance. A few months later the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence at Philadelphia shut with an ominous clang the door against all 
possibilities of reconciliation. 

The Boston Coffins were all loyal to England. Isaac's father held the 
most lucrative post there under the crown. Their acquaintances and 
friends were naturally more among the British officers sent to subjugate, 
than among those conspiring to cast off the yoke. They had much to lose 
if they swerved from their fealty to the mother country. All this they sacri- 
ficed without hesitation for what they considered their obligations. Men 
act from mingled motives ; but now that no object is to be answered by 
depreciating the loyalists, it seems as unreasonable to condemn them as it 
would be Roundhead or Cavalier. Isaac was too young in the earliest 
stages of the turmoil to realize what it meant, but long before he entered, 
at the age of fourteen, the British navy, he no doubt had formed opin- 
ions of his own. It was doubtless of advantage to him. quickening his 
faculties and maturing his character, that such events were transpiring 
about him at this plastic period. His sense of justice and right, and of 
what freedom signified, proved in his subsequent career that these advan- 
tages had not been without effect. 

His uncles and their sons were all of one mind for the crown. The 
daughters of the house sided with their husbands, some of whom remained 
neutral or went with the patriots. They were strong in numbers and near 
neighbors. Along the principal thoroughfare, its several portions now 
merged into Washington Street, dwelt twenty families descended from 
WilUam Coffin, or their near kinsfolk, who lived in constant intercourse. 
The patriarch, at fourscore, his vigor hardly abated, lived on the main street, 
near Isaac's home. His daughter Elizabeth had married her cousin, my own 


progenitor and namesake, who had bought the house opposite her father's, 
at the corner of HoUis Street, built by Governor Belcher for his own use 
not long before he went to New Jersey as governor of that province. Mrs. 
Amory, her own aunt, and the widow of her husband's father, lived farther 
south on the same street. Her tombstone, marked with her name, lays in 
the Granary Burial Ground, near Park Street corner, the inscription easily 
read through the open iron fence surmounting the wall. 

Opposite the fence, farther north, at the corner of Bromfield's Lane, 
where now stands Horticultural Hall, lived another aunt of Isaac, Mrs. 
Gilbert Deblois, who, if somewhat domineering even for a Coffin, liked to 
be hospitable. Her boys went also to the Latin school near by. Her 
cake and fruit were not wasted, but served to rejoice at lunch their healthy 
appetites. She was less considerate of her pretty daughter, Bessie, who, 
about the age of Isaac, early became attached to one every way worthy, 
and whose name in his own and two subsequent generations has been held 
in high estimation. Why the mother interfered, and forbade the banns in 
open church, locked up her daughter, whom she seized upon in the act of 
eloping with her lover, can only be explained by her love of domination. 
Neither herself nor Bessie could have favored the suit of Arnold, then cov- 
ered with laurels from Saratoga, later dishonored, who was also captivated 
by her beauty. Bessie remained single, watching with filial tenderness over 
the declining years of her mother, who had thus cruelly thwarted her own 
prospects of a happy life. She lived on, for the most part in the same dwell- 
ing, retaining her grace and loveliness till she died, having lived to beyond 
fourscore, beloved and esteemed by a large circle of acquaintances, friends, 
and kinsfolk. 

Not far from the school, on the Main Street, near the Province House, 
lived his Uncle William, whose wife was the daughter of Thomas Aston, 
and who had a large family of sons and daughters. On State, then King 
Street, opposite the scene of the Boston massacre, resided Mr. Edward 
Payne, who, disturbed at whist by the turmoil, and hastening, with his 
cards in his hand, to the door to see what it meant, had his arm shattered 
by a ball. On what is now Bowdoin Square, with large gardens about it, 
was the residence of Mr. Newell, Chairman of the Selectmen during the 
war, who had married a sister of Mrs. Payne, and they were kinswomen of 
Isaac. John and Eben, his uncles, had their homes near by his own, 
swarming with children with those best blessings of Providence — good 
spirits and temper, health, and comeliness. They lived near the Common. 
These many doors opened gladly to welcome one so cheery and spirited 
as our subject. 




Living surrounded by the sea, sailing on its bays and harbors, and 
haunting its wharves and ships, Isaac's tastes for maritime pursuits early de- 
veloped. At the age of fourteen he entered the Royal Navy under the aus- 
pices of Rear-Admiral John Montague. By him he was confided to the 
care of Lieutenant William Hunter, at that period commanding the brig 
Gaspee, and who thus spoke of his pupil : 

" Of all the young men I ever had the care of, none answered my ex- 
pectations equal to Isaac Coffin. He pleased me so much that I took all 
the pains in my power to make him a good seaman ; and I succeeded to 
the height of my wishes ; for never did I know a young man acquire so 
much nautical knowledge in so short a time. But when he became of use 
to me, the Admiral thought proper to remove him. We parted with con- 
siderable regret." 

Mr. Coffin, after quitting the Gaspee, served as midshipman succes- 
sively on board the Captain, Kingfisher, Fowey, and Diligent, on the 
Halifax Station ; from the latter vessel he was removed into the Romney, 
of fifty guns, bearing the flag of his patron at Newfoundland, and in the 
summer of 1778 he obtained a lieutenancy and the command of the Pla- 
centia cutter. In the following spring he served as a volunteer on board 
the Sybil frigate, Captain Pasley, and was soon after appointed to the 
command of Le Pincon, an armed ship. On this vessel, owing to the 
negligence of the sailing master who had charge of her, he had the misfor- 
tune to be wrecked on the coast of Labrador ; upon which he returned to 
St. John's, where he was tried by a court martial and fully acquitted, his 
conduct being considered that of an able officer and seaman wholly free 
from blame. 

By following such traces as the naval histories of Great Britain afford 
of these several ships, we can reasonably conjecture the part Coffin took 
in our Revolutionary War. We learn what duties were performed by each 
of them, and we have no reason to doubt, from his rapid promotion, of his 
efficiency and zeal. We know that his patron, Admiral Montague, pro- 
tected the rear of Howe's retreat from Boston, in 1776, that the ships to 


which he belonged were often engaged with the enemy, and that they cap- 
tured several valuable prizes, in which actions he participated. But inter- 
esting as this view of the war of Independence is from the decks of 
English fleets, little comparatively is familiar to American students of their 
history, or known of Coffin's own experiences to relate them here as inci- 
dents in his life. 

In November, 1779, Coffin, now lieutenant, went to England and was 
appointed to the Adamant, about to be launched at Liverpool. In June, 
1 780, that ship sailed for Plymouth under jury masts ; and in the month 
of August following she was ordered to convoy the trade bound to New 
York. His next appointment was to the London, of ninety-eight guns, the 
flag-ship of Rear-Admiral Graves, then second in command on the coast 
of America, and from her he removed into the Royal Oak, a third-rate, 
under Vice-Admiral Arbuthnot, to whom he acted as signal lieutenant in 
the action off Cape Henry, March 16, 1781. As he rose in rank and was 
clothed with graver responsibilities, the part he took was more conspicu- 
ous, and we may mention, even in connection with an officer so young as 
he was, much of what took place. 

The events of the first four years of the war, from 1775 to 1779, are 
sufficiently familiar; D'Estaing's repulse at Savannah and Prescott's evac- 
uation of Newport in October, 1779; its reoccupation by Tiernay in 
July, 1780. The reduction of Charleston, defeat of Gates at Camden, 
defection of Arnold, capture at sea of Henry Laurens, had followed in 
quick succession. Congress sent, in December, 1780, John, son of its 
captured president, who had gained glory in the recent battles, to help 
extricate his father from the Tower, and arrange with King Louis, Frank- 
lin, and Vergennes for the coming campaign. Britain, disappointed, had 
sued for peace by arbitration, which France was disposed to concede on 
condition of American independence. Meanwhile the King urged his allies 
to make strenuous exertions to better their condition, which seemed also 
the English policy, that they might respectively treat to better advantage. 

Arnold's sack of Virginia, Cornwallis' march to Yorktown, manoeuvred 
thither by Lafayette, Wayne, and Greene, were preparing the crisis. The 
King, in March, '81, had promised millions of money, arms, and garments. 
He provided for the co-operation of De Grasse, with a formidable fleet 
and several thousand men from the West Indies, with Washington and 
Rochambeau in the Chesapeake at the end of August. 

A French squadron in March, 1781, had a partial engagement at Cape 
Henry with Admiral Arbuthnot, under whom Coffin, as mentioned, served 
as signal lieutenant. Washington and Rochambeau in July passed round 


New York, reaching the Chesapeake as De Grasse with his twenty-four line- 
of-battle ships made his appearance. The Enghsk leaders, both on land 
and along shore, had been on the watch, and Graves, Hood, and Drake, 
with nineteen ships, hovered near. Upon their arrival, De Grasse stood 
out to sea, the British fleet following. In the engagement of the 5th of 
September that ensued, the British lost a few hundred men and De Grasse 
accomplished his object. De Barres, who had come down from Newport, 
improved the occasion to enter the bay, and the two French fleets thus 
hermetically sealed it against the British. Graves hurried back to Sandy 
Hook for reinforcements ; but when he returned with seven thousand men, 
sent by Clinton to relieve Cornwallis, on the 24th of October, it was too 
late, Cornwallis had already surrendered. 

How it chanced that Coffin took no more active part in these oper- 
ations may be thus explained. After the battle of March i6th, on the 
return to New York, the Royal Oak, after taking several valuable prizes, 
had grounded and was sufficiently injured to be hove down at Halifax. In 
the middle of June arrived a vessel from Bristol with the remains of his 
father, who had died on board the day before of gout. Having held an 
important position under government, his obsequies in New York, on 
Broadway, showed due regard to his memory. Isaac was placed soon after 
in command of the Avenger, the advanced post of the British up the 
North River, which he held during the autumn, till he exchanged with 
Sir Alexander Cochrane for the Pocahontas and joined Hood early in 
January at Barbadoes. 

Lord Hood had been often in Boston. His wife's uncle, Captain John 
Linzee, had there married the daughter of Ralph Inman, of Cambridge. 
I^ord Hood was present at this marriage, as afterward at that in the same 
apartment in the house of Mr. John Rowe, who had also married an Inman, 
of Linzee's daughter Hannah to my namesake and father's brother. 
Under the same roof William H. Prescott, whose wife was the daughter 
of Hannah Linzee, wrote his earlier histories. Hood well knew Cofiin, 
and it required very little. solicitation on his part to invite him to serve on 
board the Barfleur, his flagship. 

Soon after the surrender at Yorktown Hood had sailed for Barbadoes, 
awaiting De Grasse. January 14, 1782, soon after Coffin had joined him, 
he learned that De Grasse had relinquished his plan of attacking Barbadoes, 
and gone to St. Kitts, where De Bouille had landed eight thousand troops, 
the British garrison under Frazer consisting of but six hundred men. 

Deciding to attack the French fleet at anchor to save the place. Hood 
embarked Prescott, who had twice been in command at Newi)ort, with the 


few troops that could be spared from Antigua, and set sail. At daybreak he 
signalled for battle ; but the Alfred, running foul of the Nymph, arrested the 
prosecution of the design, in order to repair damages. De Grasse put to 
sea to have more room to manceuvre, and thus secure the advantage of 
his superiority in numbers. At daylight on the 25th, the French 
fleet, twenty-nine sail strong, formed in line of battle three leagues to 
leeward. Hood, who had but twenty-two, pushed the enemy still farther 
to leeward while he took possession of Basse Terre, the position Hood 
had left. The Count, astonished at these excellent operations which cut 
him off from his army, made a furious onset on the British rear, commanded 
by Affleck, who, under an incessant fire, covered the ships till they reached 
their several stations. 

The next morning the French admiral attacked again the British, van 
and rear, but was repulsed, losing a thousand men. His own flagship, the 
Ville de Paris, present of that city to the King, all the next day lay upon 
her heels covering her shot-holes. The siege proceeded with various 
success, till De Bouille arrived with four thousand fresh troops, when 
Frazer capitulated. Hood, on the 19th,' reached Antigua, and joined, 
a few days later Lord Rodney, with reinforcements from England. 

These operations form an epoch in the annals of the British Navy. 
Compelling an enemy of a superior force to quit his anchorage, taking 
himself the situation thus left during action, defeating every attempt to 
force the position, and cutting the enemy off from his army. It was a 
lesson in naval tactics that will ever be deservedly regarded with admiration, 
both for Hood's skill in these masterly manoeuvres, and for the bravery and 
precision with which they were executed by those under his orders. 

While at Santa Lucia, Rodney, learning that De Grasse, with 5,500 
men and heavy guns, had pushed for St. Domingo to reduce it, overtook 
him on April 7th, and the battle of the 9th and victory of the 12th were 
the results. The battle on the 12th began at seven in the morning. It 
was fought in a large basin of water lying among the islands of Guadaloupe, 
Dominique, the Saints, and Marie Galante. Both on the windward and 
leeward of this bay lay dangerous shores. As day broke, Rodney closed 
up his line at one cable length instead of at two, as usual, each ship as she 
ranged up to her opponent giving and receiving a tremendous fire. At 
noon, with his own ship, the Formidable, and three more, he bore down 
upon the enemy within three ships of the centre and broke through. His 
other ships followed, doubling upon the enemy and placing them between 
two fires. Rodney then wore and signalled the van to tack ; they gained 
the windward and completed the disorder and confusion of the French. 



The French continued the combat, attempting to reform their broken 
line by the van breaking away to windward. Meanwhile Hood, in the 
Barfleur, earlier becalmed, rushed down upon the foe. The Canada, 74, 
took the Hector. Ingrefield in the Centaur attacked the Cesar ; the cap- 
tain nailed his colors to the mast and was killed. When she struck her 
mast went overboard, and she had not a foot of canvas without a shot-hole. 
The Glorieux fought bravely, but was forced to yield. The Ardent was 
retaken, the Diadem, 74, went down by a single broadside attributed to the 
Formidable, Rodney's flag-ship. 

Between the French ship, the Ville de Paris, and the Canada, a desper- 
ate action raged for two hours. De Grasse seemed determined to sink 
rather than strike. The Barfleur, Hood's flag-ship, on which was Coffin, 
at sunset poured in a fire which killed sixty men outright, and De Grasse 
struck to Hood. It is said that at the time she struck but three men were 
left alive and unhurt on the upper deck, and the Count was one. 

Hood, despatched in pursuit of the French vessels that attempted to 
escape, overtook and captured four. The whole loss of the French 
amounted to eight vessels, one of which was sunk and another blown up. 
On the Ville de Paris were thirty-six chests of money to pay the troops. She 
was said to have been at that time the only first-rate ever carried into port 
by any commander of any nation. The French lost 3,000 men, the British 
1,000. Rodney was made a peer of Great Britain, Hood of Ireland, Drake 
and Affleck baronets. 



Shortly after the battle of April 12, 1782, Captain Cofifin, who had re- 
joined his sloop, went with part of the crew of the Santa Amonica, which 
had been wrecked at Tortola, to Jamaica, where, through the influence of 
Hood, he was appointed by Lord Rodney captain of the Shrewsbury, of 74 
guns, and confirmed in that rank June 13, 1782, sixty days later, when only 
twenty-two years of age. This indicates the estimate of both Hood and 
Rodney of his ability, prudence, and courage, of the value of his services in 
these recent operations. 

While still in command of the sloop Pocahontas at Antigua, the town 
of St. Johns caught fire and in a short space was nearly consumed. Coffin, 
with the crew of his sloop and other sailors collected by his exertions, at 
length succeeded in arresting the progress of the flames, at the imminent 
risk of his life. For this service he had the satisfaction of receiving an 
address of thanks from the legislative body of the island. 

It is not easy to determine, from the varying accounts of these battles, 
whether Cofiin, on April 12, 1782 — Rodney's great victory — was on board 
the Barfleur with Hood, or in command of his own vessel. Soon after that 
event we find him despatched on special service, to carry a portion of 
the crew of the above ship, as just stated, the Mona Amonica, which had 
been captured September 14, 1779, by his friend, George Montague, in 
the Romney, to Jamaica. Forming part of the operations, in which he 
shared with the rest and gained his promotion, this brief sketch of these 
events will not seem out of place. Great sea-fights before and since — 
Trafalgar, St. Vincent's, and many more — have displayed the naval genius 
of great commanders, when seamanship and bravery have won glory for 

In these encounters the great embarrassment to contend with was 
less the enemy than the wind. This is now changed. The develop- 
ment of steam-power, not only for propulsion, but armor and arma- 
ment, has brought to an end the naval tactics which controlled the result 
in engagements where combatants were well matched. Ships, clad like 
the warriors of old in complete steel, now set at defiance wind and tide. 



Since the Monitor, they have effectually superannuated the wooden walls 
to which nations old and new once trusted for safety and supremacy. If no 
longer ships by thousands participate in the decisive battles of the future, 
contending fleets, composed of vessels of great cost, fewer in number, 
hurling their huge missiles out of sight to their target, will change the whole 
character of naval warfare. If we have no fleet, to speak of, of our own, 
we spend millions in feeding useless mouths without benefit to the nation. 
It behooves us to educate our officers to become Nelsons and Colling- 
woods, Porters and Farraguts, when circumstances not to be foreseen or 
controlled, forces upon us another Salamis. 

Unless we guard our cities with the latest improvements in defensive 
warfare, possess fleets able to cope with the best, we may be exposed to 
tribute, to aggression, or insult — have left no alternative but the last argu- 
ment of kings and nations, the arbitrament of arms. Sir Archibald Alli- 
son, thirty years ago, from his reading of human history, that inasmuch as 
mankind always fought when they could afford it, predicted that the pre- 
cious metals discovered in such heaps would reopen the gates of Janus. 
The event has justified his prophecy. It is to be hoped that the growing 
intelligence of the race will recognize the absurdity of spending blood and 
treasure in such profitless avocations. Yet, while the world continues 
ignorant and stupid, we should be prepared for attack. We should have 
forts, ships, and captains, who will learn from the old strategy and tactics, 
on land and sea, what they had of value — accomplished commanders, who 
can, besides, devise new methods to meet the modern facilities of destruc- 
tion, which science, like Cadmus of old, who invented the alphabet, brings 
out of the earth. 

Peace soon came. Though Coffin had gained a permanent rank in the 
Navy, there was much to discourage him in finding his vocation thus 
changed, if not gone. His family was broken up. The remains of his 
father lay in their last resting-place, as already mentioned, in New York. 
John, at the age of twenty-one, had raised a mounted rifle corps in New 
York called the Orange Rangers, which, with him as their commandant, 
took part in the battle of Long Island, August 27, 1776, and in that of 
Germantown, October 4, 1777. Tater, he exchanged into the New York 
Volunteers, was at San Lucie and Brier's Creek in 1779, at Camden in 
1780, at Holkirk's Hill, near Camden, April 25th, and at Eutaw Springs 
September 8, 1781. He is mentioned, as a brave and successful cavalry 
officer, with commendation in nearly every other engagement of the South- 
ern campaign, constantly in desperate encounters and coming off" victo- 
rious. Though a purse of ten thousand dollars was offered for his capture, 


he escaped to Charleston, where he married, as the war closed, Miss 
Matthews, and establishing himself later on his manor of Alwington, on 
the St. John's, in New Brunswick, he lived till he was eighty-two in great 
honor. That at the close of the war of Independence, at the age of twenty- 
seven, his rank was only that of a major, that he was not promoted to a 
higher rank, as urged by Howe and Cornwallis, is attributed to enmity at 
court for telling the truth of a favorite. He was at the head of the gen- 
erals when he died. 

As he has had recently (1880) his biographer in one of his descendants, 
Captain Henry Coffin, of the Royal Navy, this is not the place to relate 
more particularly his brilliant achievements or numberless anecdotes well 
remembered. I vividly recall his tall commanding figure and marvellous 
bright eyes, in my early home in Park Street, in Boston, where he was a 
frequent visitor of my father, who had charge of his affairs as of his 
brother's. He was more sedate than Isaac, but both were brilliant speci- 
mens of the race. He was beloved and greatly esteemed by his numerous 
cousins, and splendid salmon from the river near his home were often sent 
by him for their enjoyment. He also, like his brother, if not on so grand 
a scale, in order to promote our stock, sent fine horses to the Agricultural 
Society at Brighton. 

The brothers, of nearly the same age, and the best of friends, Isaac 
may well have wished to have been present at John's wedding to Miss 
Matthews, which took place toward the close of 1782. Charleston lay on 
the route from Antigua, and it would not have been strange if, in the spirit 
of mutual consideration that prevailed in the service, such an opportunity 
had been given him. If so, it does not appear. 



PEACE OF 1783. 

Early in 1783, war over, and the Shrewsbury paid off, Coffin exchanged 
into the Hydra, and going home, was put out of commission. His previous 
visits to England had been brief and on professional duty. This new 
experience to one who, at the age of twenty-two, had gained the rank of 
captain, and by his valuable services made his mark as one of the best 
officers of the Navy, might have turned the head of one less sensible. 

To be his own master, with abundance of prize money, plenty of 
companions, like dashing blades to share it, must have been replete with 
gratification. Many of his family and friends from Boston had taken up 
their abode in London, and the refugee loyalists formed there a large circle. 
They were all disposed to like Isaac, a handsome young fellow with pleas- 
ant ways, generous and unpretending, loaded with laurels. If the highest 
honors of the war attached to superior rank and more distinguished com- 
mand, he had done enough to be held in estimation among his own inti- 
mates, by the great naval celebrities, and by the public. 

He was much in France while thus on furlough. Paris still retained the 
glamour of the old regime. If heavy taxes or arbitrary power created wide- 
spread discontent and disaffection, there were as yet few indications of 
the caldron seething beneath, soon to overwhelm. It is much to be wished 
more of his correspondence had survived to give us his own impressions 
of Paris then. He wrote well and with the vivacity that characterized his 
conversation. Possibly many more of his letters may exist of all periods 
of his life, and if so, they should be collected. 

Sir Guy Carleton, who could hardly have saved Canada for the crown, 
in 1 775, without the aid of the Coffins, and whose private secretary through- 
out his career was Isaac's cousin, Sir Thomas Aston Coffin, was now, in 
1786, appointed Governor of Canada. It was probably at his request that 
Isaac was appointed to the Thisbe, to take him with his family and suite to 
Quebec. He had been created Lord Dorchester, that being an old title 
in the Carleton family. The ship arrived at Quebec late in the season, 
and, lest she should be frozen up. Coffin proceeded, two days later, to 
Halifax for the winter, returning in the spring to Canada, and remained 
there for some months. 


At this time a circumstance occurred to disturb his serenity, though 
later he was entirely exonerated from any blame. It had been long the 
custom in the English naval service, among other abuses working occa- 
sional injustice and demanding reform, to retain on the ship rolls the names 
of young officers while pursuing their studies ashore ; so that they might 
not, while qualifying themselves for their responsible duties, lose their pre- 
cedence for promotion. Many years before, in consequence of some unfair 
advantage that had been taken of this indulgence, a regulation prohibiting 
such practices had been adopted by the Admiralty. It chanced at this very 
time someone again had been aggrieved, and attention been called to the 
prevalence of what had been prohibited. It was ascertained that two such 
cases were on the rolls of the Thisbe, not placed there with the knowledge 
of Coffin, but which it was his duty as captain to have discovered and struck 
off. Upon inquiry and complaint he was suspended, and indignant at what 
he conceived unfair treatment, he proceeded to Flanders, and entered into 
the service of the Brabant patriots then in arms against Austria, 

This decree of suspension by the board, when appealed from to the 
twelve judges, was by them declared illegal on the part of the Admiralty 
and set aside. This put an end to the suspension and restored him to his 
standing in the service. Upon the Spanish armament in 1 790, on the Nootka 
Sound dispute, he was appointed to the Alligator, and in the following 
spring, having received the flag of Commodore Cosby, was ordered to 
America, whence he returned home with Lord Dorchester and his family the 
following autumn. 

While thus stationed at Halifax, he visited Quebec on furlough, and 
remained there a twelvemonth. He naturally found the place attractive 
socially as in other ways. Besides his cousin, Thomas Aston, son of his 
uncle William, his Uncle John resided in that city with his family, who 
were about his own age. John, early after the outbreak of hostilities at 
Boston, had taken his wife, Isabella Child, and eleven surviving of his 
fifteen children, six sons and five daughters, in his own ship, the Neptune, 
to Quebec. He there purchased land, and when Montgomery and 
Arnold arrived in December, 1775, to besiege the city, he remodelled the 
buildings he was constructing for another purpose into a fortification. This 
he armed with guns from a vessel frozen in for the winter, and with Barne- 
fare, its captain, stood ready with a small force to oppose the assailants. 
With the first volley he slew Montgomery and his two aids, on the last day 
of the year 1775, as they attempted to take his fort by assault. This, with 
Arnold's subsequent loot of Montreal, which disaffected the Canadians, 
saved Canada for the British crown. 


The sons of John all reached distinguished rank in the British civil and 
military service, and three of his daughters were connected with it by 
marriage. Isabella married Colonel McMurdo, whose sons gained dis- 
tinction in India ; Susannah, Hon. John Craigie, provincial treasurer, whose 
son, an admiral, died in 1872 at Dawlish ; his daughter Margaret, Sir 
Rof^er Hailes Sheafe, born in Boston, who for his victory at Queenstown 
Heights, October 13, 1812, was made a baronet. One of the sons of John, 
Francis Holmes, in the navy throughout the war with France, served with 
distinction and died an admiral in 1835. 

While on his way up the river to Quebec in 1 786, the Thisbe was be- 
calmed off the Magdalen Islands in the St. Lawrence, and struck by their 
appearance, perhaps the more attractive from the autumnal splendors. 
Coffin requested, probably not in very serious earnest, that Lord Dorchester, 
as representative of the crown, would bestow them on him. This request 
seemed reasonable to the governor. It was not received at first with favor at 
home, but renewed the following year in more formal manner, was eventu- 
ally granted. The letters-patent were not expedited until 1798, during the 
governorship of Robert Prescott. In his will Sir Isaac entailed these islands 
on his nephew, John Townsend Coffin, and his sons, John's brother, Henry 
Edward, his cousin William, and several other branches of his own name, 
and then on the Barwells, his sister's sons. The son of Sir Isaac Tristram, 
who died in 1872, now holds them. 

After his return to Europe, while lying at the Nore during a heavy gale, 
a man fell overboard, and Coffin leaped after him into the sea and succeeded 
in saving his life. He sustained by his efforts a serious injury, which fre- 
quently afterward reminded him of this act of humanity. 

Another heroic act, of somewhat similar character, has been related of 
his promptness in emergencies. While at Portsmouth, or some other 
naval station, and, it is beUeved, still a subaltern, his ship, one of the line, 
caught fire, which being in close proximity to the magazine, sailors and 
marines rushed with precipitation to the gangway to escape the instantly 
expected explosion. By authority, or example, he changed their purpose, 
and the men going to quarters, saved the ship. 

Soon after his return the Alligator was paid off. After visiting 
Sweden, Denmark, and Russia he returned home upon the troubles with 
France, and in charge of the Melampus frigate was employed on Channel 
service to the close of 1794. While exerting himself on a boisterous 
night, when the frigate was in great danger of destruction, he sustained a 
similar injury to that at the Nore, which compelled him to leave his ship, 
and for some time he remained a cripple. Nine months later, however. 


while recovering his strength at Leith on service, he was sent as resident 
commissioner of Corsica, and remained till October, 1796, when the island 
was evacuated. From Elba he was removed to Lisbon to take charge for 
the next two years of the naval establishment at that place. He was thence 
despatched to superintend the arsenal at Port Mahon when Minorca fell 
into the hands of the English, and from there ordered to Nova Scotia in the 
Venus frigate. At Halifax, and afterward at Sheerness, as resident commis- 
sioner he was employed till April, 1804, when appointed rear-admiral he 
hoisted his flag on the Gladiator on duty at Portsmouth, and the following 
month he was created a baronet. The record recites the grant of the 
Magdalen Islands in the St. Lawrence, for his unremitting zeal and perse- 
vering efforts in the public service. He was promoted four years later to 
the grade of vice-admiral, which ended his naval duties afloat, though he 
became full admiral in 18 14 by regular seniority. 

This sketch of his services at sea is very incomplete. The memoir of 
him in 1822, by Marshall, in London, when he was in Parliament, is brief, 
and the obituary in The Gentlemaii' s Magazine when he died, not even 
as extended. I have no data of his cruise in the Pacific, along the shore 
of Australia, mentioned by Mr. Allen Coffin, which has left its trace on the 
charts in Sir Isaac's Point and Coffin's Bay. It seems more likely to have 
taken place about the close of the last century or the beginning of this. 

His prize money in such troubled times had been considerable. This 
he entrusted to my father, one of his cousins in his native place, favorably 
circumstanced, to invest it to advantage, and it was said that the income 
finally equalled the original deposits. He made frequent visits to his early 
home in the course of his busy life upon the sea, having made more than 
thirty voyages to and from America. 




Affluent and a baronet, he naturally longed for a home and inclined to 
transmit his baronetcy to his posterity. March, iSii, he married Elizabeth 
Browne, the only child of William Greenly, of Titley Court, in Hereford- 
shire, Her family, brought up with rigid notions of propriety, did not take 
kindly to the hearty and jovial ways which characterized naval officers, and 
the match proved less happy than expected. 

It is said that on one occasion, returning to Tidey Court on some par- 
ticularly festal day, he ordered the sexton, as he passed through the village, 
to ring a merry peal and send the tenants to the mansion to drink a glass 
of ale. This mortally offended the lord of the manor, who thus found his 
prerogative invaded by the husband of his only child. Within a few years, 
satisfied of their utter incompatibility of temper, they very amicably, on 
both sides, arranged for independence of each other. 

Without intending to detract from her merit, the lady indulged in literary 
tastes of a religious tendency. She was said to be addicted to writing ser- 
mons at night, to the disturbance of the slumbers of her rollicking spouse, 
and so, after a space they separated. She remained Lady Greenly and he 
resumed the name of Coffin. The fault was certainly not hers, who was a 
clever and exemplary woman, but somewhat eccentric in her ways. In 
after hfe she was well known in Bath, England, remarkable for wearing, 
Welsh-woman fashion, a man's round hat, a riding habit cut short, and for 
wielding a gold-headed cane. She lived nearly as long as he did, but they 
rarely met, though he made repeated overtures to reconciliation, some 
rather amusing. 

When shipwrecked in the Boston, struck by lightning on her way 
from Charlestown to Liverpool in 1829, in the boat for several days with 
little hope of rescue, for the seas were not then as much traversed as now, 
he expressed great affection for her, and gave his watch to the captain to 
send her should he himself not survive their perils and the captain be 
fortunate enough to escape. While in the crowded boat, on this occasion, 
with no shelter and little covering, and the scantiest supply of food and 
water, his own cheerfulness, interesting conversation, and ebullitions of 
good humor, kept his companions in heart and courage. 


It is the reasonable ambition of all Englishmen whose conditions and 
circumstances justify such aspirations, to be permitted to take part in the 
legislation and government of their country, and when his own health and 
the peace rendered active service in the Navy no longer desirable, his 
wish was gratified by his return to Parliament. One of his friends, Lord 
Darlington, had influence enough to secure his return in 18 18, for the 
borough of Ilchester, for which he sat till the dissolution in 1826. His 
reputation and experience gave especial weight to his opinions when he 
took part, as he frequently did, in debates on naval affairs. What he said 
attracted attention to its practical good sense by the hilarity of his nature 
and happy stores of illustration that amused while they convinced. He 
was tall, robust, but of symmetrical proportions ; his voice powerful, and 
his countenance expressive and noble. His long habits of command and 
contention'with the elements inspired confidence in himself, which com- 
manded that of the House. He was widely known and generally popular, 
and happily constituted to enjoy the social pleasures attending ""success, 
tempered in their indulgence by occasional twinges of gout. 

Among affluent and influential circles, nowhere more than in England, 
does the social board shape public opinion, develop and test ability, or 
even control affairs. This was more the case half a century ago than since 
reform bills have opened the door more widely to popular representation. 
Officials and legislators were exclusively selected from rank and wealth, or 
for extraordinary ability and statesmanship, and the aristocracy they repre- 
sented regarded the government as their especial concern. Much could 
be said in the privacy of social discussion which would have been wholly 
impolitic through the press, or in the halls of legislation. From memoirs 
and biographies since published, what took place behind the scenes has 
come to light to show how, and by whom, public affairs were conducted 
and managed. Many wise and noble statesmen were among the leaders, 
but much has transpired that had better have been consigned to oblivion. 
Social chat at the table was not altogether political ; it embraced every 
conceivable topic, and the brilliant encounters of wit, the profound specu- 
lations of philosophy, the flood of anecdote and historical reminiscence, 
contributed to the intellectual banquet. 

From his varied opportunities and confidential acquaintance with men 
and affairs, few had more to impart to the general" entertainment of the 
hour than Sir Isaac. He possessed rich stores of the information most 
valued, and his jovial nature was contagious and irresistible. In the 
brilliant round of London hospitalities, in the happily-ordered routine of 
country life, where scores of able men met in the easiest freedom from 


constraint as guests together, he was everywhere an acquisition. I 
remember well weeks passed under the same roof with him when preparing 
for my college examinations. The family were in the country, and he was 
tied by the foot to his couch by the gout. But from morning till night, 
droll stories, amusing incidents, whimsies and oddities of every description, 
exploded like fireworks from the aged man's pillow, intermingled with 
occasional garnish of more savage intensity at his anguish. 




I HAVE Still a vivid recollection of him in his undress uniform as a 
British admiral, at an earlier period, in fine health and the perfection of 
physical maturity, on the wide lawn and in the spacious parlors of Belmont, 
his cousin's and my uncle's home. He was then tall and erect, with rich 
color in his cheeks and merry sparkle in his eye, brimming over with 
animal spirits, companionable, and with fitting chat for all. His funny 
words and ways were the delight and dread of the children, into whose 
frolics he entered with zest, bewildering their minds with his drolleries, 
both they and himself exploding with merriment at practical jokes too 
good-natured to offend. 

If not quite as prone to loud expressions of mirth and merriment in so- 
cial intercourse on this side the ocean as on the other, one so gay and so 
brimful of amusing jokes and stories was perhaps all the better appreci- 
ated. The many brilliant gentlemen of Boston in professional life, or among 
its merchant princes, affluent and convivial, were pleased to have him as 
their guest. Loyalty to the mother-country died out slowly ; and a Bos- 
ton-born boy, whose numerous kinsfolk had ample means for hospitality, 
much attention was paid him. Often when at my father's, who resided in 
Park Street, where now is the Union Club House, the festal entertain- 
ments extended into the small hours ; and those upon whom it devolved 
to sit up to receive the roisterers, would gladly welcome from far off his 
shout of " House ahoy! " breaking on the silent watches of the night. 

While at some lordly mansion in England his hostess had begged him 
to have made for her a Boston rocking-chair. Not wishing to disoblige her 
ladyship, he enlisted the services of the village carpenter, and a few days 
after had the contrivance, not then to be found in fashionable mansions out 
of the nursery, placed in the apartment where the company at the castle 
assembled before dinner. With all due ceremony he led the amiable and 
much-honored lady to the chair, in which she ensconced herself and began 
to rock. Unfortunately, the rockers had not been constructed on scien- 
tific principles, and over it went, with many eyes to behold. Too well bred 
to be affronted, she gathered herself up as best she could ; and by taking 


it kindly put the admiral at his ease, and contributed to the gayety of the 
repast. Her husband, whose good services placed him in Parliament, did 
not abate them for the casualty. 

One day an American ship sailed into Portsmouth, or Plymouth, before 
the War of 1812, when Sir Isaac had charge of the naval fleet. An English 
officer was sent on board. The master having gone ashore, the mate? 
being in charge, did not receive the officer with the etiquette required upon 
such occasions. The officer gave the first salutation as he reached the deck 
by saying : " What damned kind of a Yankee lubber has charge here, who 
don't know his duty to properly receive his majesty's officer?" The mate 
said not a word, but, seizing his visitor by the collar and slack of his trou- 
sers, threw him overboard for his own crew to pick up. Soon after an armed 
boat came alongside to take the mate on board the flag-ship, where he was 
arraigned before Sir Isaac, who soon became aware that the culprit was a 
kinsman, whose father he had been familiar with in boyhood. Retried to 
get the mate to acknowledge that he was ignorant'of the laws and customs, 
that he might dismiss the case vvith a caution not to do so again ; but the 
Yankee was obdurate. "He'd be damned," he said, "if any man should 
insult him on his own deck and under the flag of his country." The of- 
fender was remanded to be regularly tried the next day. In the meantime 
the admiral sent a messenger to privately assure the mate that a suitable 
apology would relieve him from any further trouble in the matter ; but on 
the trial the same defiant manner was assumed. The admiral drew out 
some expression, however, which he accepted as satisfactory, and dismissed 
the offender with suitable admonitions. 

Later in the day, from the shore, the admiral sent a message to the 
young man, stating that, as his father was an old friend and relative, he 
would be happy to meet the son and enjoy a bottle of wine with him at 
the Jnn. But the young man replied that the admiral might go to h — 1 with 
his wine. He'd see him d — d first, before he'd drink with any d — d Eng- 
lisher, especially one who would approve of an insult to an officer under 
his own flag, upon his own deck. 

The admiral used to relate the above incident with much gusto, as he 
admired the spirit of independence exhibited by the Yankee mate. We 
have retained the strong garnish, as a fair sample of the profane ways of 
a few generations ago. Not only afloat on the quarter-deck and on the 
forecastle, but in the drawing-room and social circles, among those who 
should have knowni better, such modes of speech prevailed. They have 
long since vanished from among all classes and conditions here and through- 
out Christendom. 


Commodore Hull, of our Navy, was one of his correspondents, and 
General Wilson, our honored president, has been good enough to per- 
mit me to read many letters that passed between them after the War of 
18 1 2 and when the two countries were at peace. This correspondence 
displays alike in both the genial and generous traits which the Navy is thought 
peculiarly to foster. I propose to refer to one subject more than once 
mentioned in these letters, which, to use the old phrase, might seem only 
a fish story and for the marines, if not evidently believed by himself. It is 
in reference to the size attained in former days by lobsters on our coasts. 
In the freedom of intercourse around the table or on the quarter-deck, while 
once returning to America, he alleged that lobsters had been found 
weighing ninety pounds. Though given somewhat to rhodomontade, he 
seems in this instance to have believed the fact based on hearsay, if not 
on sight. My own fishmonger told me that within his experience in these 
waters twenty-five pounds was the largest that had come to his knowledge, 
but I have seen it stated that lobsters of much larger weight have been 
found down East, where there is more room for expansion and imagination. 
The size attained by turtles and other shell-fish in neighboring waters 
renders such possibilities less incredible. 

Apropos of Hull and Sir Isaac, my friend. General Wilson, in a recent 
address on Commodore Hull and the frigate Constitution, said : " When in 
the presence of a Boston-born British admiral another naval officer indulged 
in laudatory and extravagant comments on the capture of the Chesa- 
peake and endeavored to underrate the American naval victories of the 
War of 181 2-14, and particularly that gained over the Guerriere, he said, 
' It was a lucky thing for your friend Broke that he fell in with the unpre- 
pared Chesapeake, and not with Hull and the Constitution. If he had, no 
Tower guns would have been heard celebrating a Shannon victory.' This 
manly and patriotic statement was made by Sir Isaac Coffin at the dinner 
table of the Duke of Wellington, and was related to me by his eldest son, 
the second Duke, who was present. On the same occasion, when some- 
one spoke sneeringly of the Americans as soldiers, a general of my own 
name remarked, ' I have been through the Peninsular campaign, and was 
with the duke at Waterloo, but harder fighting I never saw than we had at 
Lundy's Lane.' " 





Sir Isaac's character was too racy and various not at times to provoke 
censure or criticism. He did so much that should not be forgotten, so 
much entitled to be remembered, that, had the time or the occasion 
allowed, I should mention several anecdotes that have come to my knowl- 
ed"-e which show what he was from all points of view. One incident would 
serve to explain how sometimes he created ill-will by yielding too much to 

his impulses. 

These impulses were quick and generous ; his disposition to be of service 
to his least fortunate kinsfolk he manifested by frequent visits and liberal 
benefactions ; and if occasionally awakening expectations which change of 
impression or circumstances disappointed, his imperfections as well as 
his noble traits constituted a part of his character. 

1 have already mentioned that the judicious investment of his pay and 
prize-money by one of his cousins had made him rich. In various ways 
he expressed his gratitude even to another generation. In a paper alluded 
to in his will he left bequests to a long list of his kindred, many of whom 
were in straitened circumstances. Others better off he did not forget, 
bequeathing five hundred pounds to my father's children. 

He took an especial interest in the eldest son of this cousin, who had 
been the junior partner of the house, and been left, by the death of his 
father, in control. He had married, and taken into the firm one of the 
best of men, since one of the great house of the Barings of London. 
Losing his health, Mr. Amory was advised by his physician to go with his 
wife and children to Europe. When they took their departure, he left Sir 
Isaac, then his guest, in possession of his dwelling. Sir Isaac had left in 
the firm, as part of its working capital, $10,000, to be used in its transac- 
tions, with the assurance that it should not be called for while he lived. 
When, owing to some freak of temper to which persons tortured by the 
gout are liable, he insisted upon having the sum thus lent, and a few thou- 
sands more then due, instantly repaid, the brothers and sisters were, for 
the most part, under age, the paternal property undivided. There existed 
then no limited liability. Mill corporations recently established, in which 


his father had largely invested, and of some of which he had been president 
or director, becoming unproductive, tailing, or losing their credit, left ex- 
posed the estate, largely composed of land, wharves, and dwellings. 

It was a most mopportune moment for Sir Isaac to reclaim the loan 
accepted expressly upon the promise, it should not be called for while he 
lived. By sacrificing his patrimony in the then depreciated market, Sir 
Isaac was repaid within the year, though the inheritance of his creditor, thus 
disposed of, has since been worth tvventyfold, at the least, what it brought. 
This unexpected blow crippled one he had intended to serve, who, with a 
large family of ten children, struggled on bravely as well as he could with- 
out capital, sometimes eminently successful, always active and energetic. 
Obliging, beloved, and respected, he made the best of his existence ; and 
if often too sanguine of results, would, but for this, have been as much 
favored in fortune as he was in his amiable disposition and courtesies. 
It is too old a story for praise or blame. Probably Sir Isaac had forgotten 
his promise, and when he thought his loan imperilled felt bound to extri- 
cate it from danger. 

This incident is mentioned not for blame, but explanation. It left at 
the time an impression 10 the prejudice of our subject, and as the only 
blur upon his fame as large-hearted, just, and generous, it should not be 
misunderstood. Before stocks and bonds offered safe investments for 
trusts, money was often left with merchants and bankers upon interest, to 
be used as part of their capital. When the profits of trade judiciously con- 
ducted ranged from twenty to thirty per cent., and with little risk, where 
there was prudence and wealth, houses well established often found it of 
advantage thus to enlarge their working means. In this instance of uni- 
form and long-continued success and established reliability, hundreds of 
thousands of dollars were held, some at fixed rates of interest, some re- 
ceiving a portion of the profits. No corporation existing for the insur- 
ance of marine risks, men of property, of various professions and pursuits, 
visited the offices where such business was transacted, and subscribed as 
underwriters on ships and cargo. Sometimes people not in trade shared 
in the ventures of those that were. 

In this way the admiral's own fortunes had rolled up, in the care of his 
cousin, to very respectable dimensions. It was with the view of increas- 
ing them that he left the loan to be accounted for to his executors with 
his son and surviving partner. It was not pretended that the loan was 
used, except in the regular commercial operations of the house. Sudden 
death, a large family to divide the income, illness that compelled going 
abroad, led to some delay in responding to the unexpected call for it • 


and this, where exactness and promptitude had been the unvarying expe- 
rience, fretted the temper of the admiral. The best of us occasionally act 
from impulse, and the consequences in the case could not have been fore- 
seen. It is a caution to men not to be precipitate. It prejudiced many of 
his best friends against him, and no doubt caused him in his later life much 
regret. But now that nearly half a century has passed, he seems fairly enti- 
tled, in the estimation of all, to his place in the calendar free from re- 
proach, so far as this incident is concerned, and the writer knows of no 
other that is not greatly to his credit. 

There is another explanation which, at this day when indulgence in 
speculation as to motives for transactions so remote can do no harm, may 
serve to amuse or caution against the possible consequences of similar 
ebullitions. The admiral had been the frequent guest of his young friend 
in town and country, using his horses and carriages ; and when the family 
went to Europe, begged him to use his carriage in London, and gave 
orders to that effect. It so chanced that when about to be presented at 
court, as there were many other Americans besides to go with them, it 
seemed the right moment to use the carriage, whose panels were, of course, 
emblazoned with Sir Isaac's arms. He did not like it, and took it rather 
in dudgeon, but in this he of course made a mistake. 

What bears, also, some connection with the transaction, if not particu- 
larly pertinent, may interest some of our readers. Mr. Amory was acting 
at the Isle of Wight, as representative of Colonel Hunter, our Consul, who 
had gone over to France for his children, about whose safety there was 
cause for alarm, when the exiled King and his family having taken refuge in 
American vessels, placed himself under the protection of our Consulate 
flag at Cowes. There they remained for several weeks, while the English 
Cabinet consulted as to how best to receive them. During this period the 
vice-consul, visiting the King daily on the ship, having the family at his 
house at Ryde, and occupying their time with excursions about the island, 
had an interesting experience. He had earlier travelled over Europe, 
known many of its celebrities intimately, and was always excellent in con- 
versation, and thus able to divert their grief. Sir Isaac may have thought 
this an extravagance ; or, perhaps, was too much of a Liberal in politics 
to approve these civilities to a monarch so arbitrary. 

While a guest at my father's summer house at Newton, he found in 
the pastor of the church there — Parson Homer — an excellent, learned, but 
somewhat eccentric clergyman, who had been his schoolmate at the Boston 
Latin School. The parson, who frequently came to dinner, was apt to be 
a little long over his grace, to the cooling of the soup. The renewal of 


their early friendship was a pleasure to both, and the dominie being versed 
in biblical lore, the admiral added much to the enjoyment of his later 
years by the gift of a rare and costly Bible, with a letter still extant. 

His interest in the school and his classmates never ebbed. His name 
is found on its books in 1808, the year he was made Master of Arts at 
Harvard College. Upon his last visit to Boston, not long before he died, 
he went to the school, then in School Street. One of the then pupils, Dr. 
Parsons, the peerless translator of Dante, tells me he remembers him well; 
and that Sir Isaac, with hand upon his head, devoutly invoked a blessing 
in his behalf. 

What remains of his correspondence here is creditable to his good 
sense, to his ability as a writer, to his broad sympathies. Soon after the 
war ended, he established in our Massachusetts waters a school-ship for 
our mates and skippers to learn the art of navigation. The barge Clio, 
which he purchased for the purpose, was commanded by his kinsman 
Captain Hector Coffin, of the Newburyport branch of the name, who 
was imprudent enough, in 1826, to go up in her to Quebec, flaunting the 
American flag. These generous projects involved large expenditures, and 
when his brother, General John Coffin, of New Brunswick, urged him to 
abandon what gave umbrage at home, he cheerfully acquiesced in giving 
up what had cost him several thousands of pounds. His desire to be of 
service to the land of his birth, nevertheless, prompted other beneficent 
efforts. He sent over to Brighton Barefoot, Serab, and several other 
race-horses that had recently triumphed in the Derby and other well-known 
courses to improve our breed. He brought over in crates, from English 
waters, turbot, the first of the European variety in our own, and imported 
rare fruits and plants for our horticulturists. 

These horses, sent out with a groom to take charge of them, were kept 
in the stables of the Massachusetts Agricultural Society at Brighton. 
Barefoot had many descendants, Serab, if any, but few. For many years 
having been the fortunate possessor of one of the Barefoot's colts, it grew 
up to be perfect for the saddle. One day when on his back, an elderly 
body crossing the street, not having heard the clatter of his hoofs upon the 
pavement, suddenly changed her purpose, retracing her steps to regain the 
side she had left. The horse, checked to avoid her, struck his hock against 
the curb-stone, and was spavined. When broken to the shafts, and left for 
a moment at the door, he threaded his way through a crowded thoroughfare 
to the stable-yard, half a mile, without a scratch. It is a pleasure thus to 
record in print the virtues of that excellent colt whose paternal pedigree 
was almost as long as that of the Coffins. 



He was warmly attached to Nantucket, where his ancestors and their 
descendants had dwelt for so many generations. He visited the place 
and became acquainted with his kinsfolk, and in 1826 appropriated twelve 
thousand dollars (;2^2,5oo), afterward increased till now about ;^io,ooo, 
as a fund for a school for the instruction of the posterity of Tristram. This 
includes nearly every native-born child of the island, besides, perhaps, 
thousands in every State in the Union, who by future residence may 
come within its benefits. The Academy still flourishes, though if our 
present system of public instruction had then reached its present develop- 
ment, his benefactions would probably have assumed another form. 

Soon after his mishaps, to which we have already alluded, when burned 
out of the cotton ship when near Charleston, in 1829, he came to Boston, 
and when some fresh attacks of his painful disorder induced by the ex- 
posure permitted, he hastened back to England. 

The Duke of Clarence, William the Fourth, had succeeded his brother 
George on the throne. His long connection with the Navy attached to 
him the ofiEicers who had grown old with himself. It was said that when 
the King was urged to create new peers to carry the Reform Bill through 
the Lords, Sir Isaac was high up on his list as Earl of Magdalen. The 
House of Lords gave in and voted for the Reform Bill, and the proposed 
new peers were not created. Sir Isaac did not long survive his royal friend. 
The 23d of June, 1839, at the age of eighty, he died at Cheltenham, in 
Gloucestershire, and there he was buried. Lady Cofiin preceded him to 
the tomb on the 27th of January of that year. His brother, General John 
Coffin, died the year before, his death having taken place June 12, 1838, in 
New Brunswick. 

Save when in his own cabins afloat, or in his official residences in com- 
mand of posts. Sir Isaac rarely enjoyed the privilege of a home of his own, 
unless as such may be regarded his lodgings in London while in Parlia- 
ment. He found a ready welcome under the roofs of his friends and kins- 
folk. His sister, Mrs. Mundy, had a charming abode. Holly Bank, in 
Hampshire, of which I caught a glimpse when passing its gates, and 
where another brother of mine and his wife visited her. He had known 
her sons, the Barwells, pleasantly in India! He chanced to be present, 
also, at the hotel at Cheltenham when Sir Isaac died. There, and at 
Bath, where some of his cousins resided, had been his frequent resort, and 
there he had come to end his days near the family sepulchre. 

But I have already exceeded my limit ; much omitted may find place in 
some future publication. I have not aimed at eulogy or indulged in illus- 
tration, but simply recited facts that have come to me from diligent study 


of the subject, many of which had escaped previous investigation. The 
memory of a Boston boy, who by dint of his own native energy attained 
the highest rank in the British navy, a generous benefactor whose works 
still bear witness to the noble impulse that prompted them, thus rescued 
from oblivion in your publications, may find interested readers not only 
among his numberless kinsfolk, but even among a larger circle of readers. 
The engraving of Sir Isaac which accompanies this memoir is taken 
from a portrait by Gilbert Stuart, that formerly belonged to his cousin 
Thomas C. Amory, on Franklin Place, Boston, and in my earliest recollec- 
tion hung in the parlor of the house of my aunt, Mrs. Amory, the sister 
of Admiral Sir Samuel Hood Linzee, cousin of Lords Hood and Bridport. 
It now forms part of the precious ancestral gallery of my cousin, Mr. Wil- 
liam Amory, of Beacon Street, Boston. The portrait in the Coffin School 
at Nantucket of its founder, by Sir William Beechey, presents Sir Isaac 
at a later period of life. 



The Coffins have always claimed coat-armor in laereditary right. That 
branch descended from Nathaniel Coffin, father of Admiral Sir Isaac, in- 
herit the right through the Admiral's grant, and are unquestionably en- 
titled to 'wear his coat of arms, but this differs essentially in its emblazon- 
ment from the more ancient ones. 

Authorities upon English heraldry give, as belonging to the Coffins of 
Devonshire, a description which, in its combination, is unlike any other 
family bearings, and consists of bezants and cross-crosslets. 

While they differ as to order of arrangement and combination, the 
number of bezants is never less than three nor more than four, and the 
cross-crosslets vary from five upward to a semee which is an indefinite 
convenient number. 

The bezants are a roundle representing the ancient gold coin of By- 
zantium, current in England from the tenth century to the time of Ed- 
ward III., and was probably introduced into coat-armor by the crusaders. 
The white roundle exhibited upon Admiral Sir Isaac's arms is of silver, 
and is usually called a plate, although there were silver bezants used as 
coin. The cross-crosslets are crosses crossed on each arm. 

The crests and mottoes are of quite modern origin. 

The six coats of arms in the name in "Burke's General Armory" are 
as follows : 

1. Coffin, Magdalen Islands, Gulf of St. Lawrence, since of Titley 
Court, County Hereford, baronet. Azure, semee of crosses crosslet, or ; 
two batons in saltire, encircled with laurel branches, gold, between three 
plates. Crest : Or, the stem of a ship ; or, a pigeon, wings endorsed, ar- 
gent, in the beak a sprig of laurel, vert. Motto : " Extant recte factis 
proemia." These arms are limited in the grant to Sir Isaac Coffin and the 
descendants of his father, Nathaniel. 

2. Coffin, Pine, Portlege, County Devon, temp. William I. The pres- 
ent representative of this most ancient family, as well as of the families 
Pine of East Downe and Pepysof Impington, is the Rev. John Pine-Coffin, 
of Portledge. Azure, semee of crosses crosslet, or ; three bezants quar- 


tering the arms of Pine, Downe, Kelway, Ilcombe, Winslade, Birt, 
Hondesinore, Appleton, Gould, Penfound, and Pepys. Crests : First, a 
martlet, azure, charged on the breast with two bezants, a mullet for differ- 
ence ; second, a pine tree proper. Motto : " In tempestate floresco." 

3. Coffin, Portland, County Dorset. Argent, a chevron between 
three mullets, pierced sable. 

4. Coffin, Somersetshire. Gules, two bars embattled, or. 

5. Coffin, Somersetshire. Argent, three bezants and five crosses cross- 
let, or. 

6. Coffyn, Azure, four bezants within five crosses crosslet, or ; crest, 
a bird, or, between two cinque-foils, or, stalked and leaved, vert. 

Sir Isaac's visit to Nantucket, 1826, when he founded his school there, 
was commemorated by a bronze medal he had struck off on the occasion, 
bearing an admirable effigy of Tristram in full length, and in the graceful 
garb of his period, on a base bearing the date 1642. The effigy is encircled 
with the inscription : " Tristram Coffin, the first of the race that settled in 
America ; " on the obverse four hands in fraternal grasp surrounded with the 
injunction : " Do honor to his name — be united." At the same time he 
had printed and widely distributed among the descendants of Tristram a 
handsome broadside, relating in brief the principal incidents of his life and 
of his origin as then known. 

The broadside presents the arms of Tristram, with the facsimile of his 
signature. Azure, four bezants within five crosses crosslet, or ; crest, a 
bird, or, between two cinque-foils, argent, stalked and leaved, vert. 
These are said to have been the arms of Sir William, who died in 1638, 
and whose monument still stands at Standon, in Essex, of which royal 
manor he was high steward. This is the sixth coat of arms of the Coffins 
described in the " General Armory," and may have been taken from " Wea- 
ver's Funeral Monuments," who gives the inscription, or from " The College 
of Arms." 

The arms of Sir Isaac, granted in 1804, when created a baronet, also 
on the broadside, have already been stated, being the first described in the 
'•General Armory " of the name, as given above. 

In The Neiv England Historical and Genealogical Register for Octo- 
ber, 1881, reprinted separately, is an article entitled "The Name and 
Armorials of the Coffin Family," by Mr. John Coffin Jones Brown. The 
article is replete with information upon his subject. The difference be- 
tween the arms of North Devon, 1349 to 1699, and South seems simply 
the addition of a fourth bezant in chief Conjectures are not proof, but 
the suggestion is reasonable, that the fourth bezant, which is in the centre 


chief, may have been adopted to distinguish the Brixton branch from that 
of Portledge. 

Before me are two mementos of the second centennial of the death 
of Tristram, in 1881 — a plate and bowl, handsomely decorated in gold, 
with the coat of arms of the South Devonshire Coffins emblazoned on each, 
with the four bezants between the five crosses crosslet, or, with this motto : 
'* Per tenebras speramus lumen de lumine." This is the motto of Hector 
Coffin — perhaps adopted by him in some moment of discouragement at 
finding his quest of the parentage of Tristram's grandfather, Nicholas, on 
a wrong scent. I may be equally unfortunate ; but his efforts and mine, 
if not attended with success, may illumine the path through the darkness 
to the truth. 









































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Richard, iioo, 1327, county records. 
Sir Hugo, of Combe Coffin, 1189-99. 
Sir Geoffry, Henry HI., 1216-72. 

Sir William Pole, of 386 Portlage. 
Richard, 2 Knight fees of Robert the King's son. 
Richard, 2 Knight fees of Henry Herring. 
Richard, 24 Edward I., 1296. 
John, 8 Edward H., 1315. 
David, 19 Edward IH., 1346. 
Michael, 40 Edward IH., 1367. 

John — Thomasia, d. of Hathey. 

William = d. John Cockementon. 
Richard = Alice, d. of John Sambon. 

( William. 

(John = Elizabeth, co-d. of Phillippa Hingeston. 

( James = Ann, d. of Sir Wm. Chudleigh. 
-; Thomas. 

' Richard = Wilmot, d. of Sir Richard Chudleigh. 
William, son of above = 
John — Mary, d. of Rob. Cary, of Clovelly. 


Richard, deed 1254, Henry III. 
William, lord of Alwenter, 1272, Edward I. 
Sir Richard, deed of Edward I. 
Richard = 1311. 

rjohn = 1318. 

I Roger. 

I Lawrence. 

i Richard. 

David = Thomasia, 32 Edward III., 1359. 
David, son and heir of David, 1376. 

John and Thomasii, wife living, 1427. 
Richard, Sheriff of Devon, 2 Henry VIII., 151 1. 
Richard, Sheriff of Devon, 36 Charles II., 1683. 
J John. 

I William = Margaret, d. of Thomas Gifi^d. 
Eldest son. 

John of Hyde in Northam. 

Richard = Honor, d. Ed. Prideaux of Padstow. 
James, of Markleigh. 
Elizabeth, b. 1566, d. 1613 = Wyke of Som. 



= Wilmot Chudleigh. 

= Mary Cole. 
= Mary Cary. 
= John WoUacomb, 1589. 

Prudence = Berrie of Berrie. 

Wilmot = William Addington = Farrington, 

John = Grace and Richard Berrie. 

Humphrey, b. 1605, wasted his estate. 
Giles, b. 1610. 
I Nicholas, b. 1613. 
(.Richard, 1589 = Elizabeth Loveis. 

John = Elizabeth, d. Henry Harding. 



Seven daughters.'Mary, Ibbot, Wilmot,' Elizabeth, 
Christian, Julian, Katherine. 




John, 1572-1622. 

Richard, s. of Richard, s. of John, 1659-60. 

Richard, 1569-1622, age 48. 

Elizabeth, his wife, 1571-1651, age 80. 

Ruth, 1601-42, age 41, wife of Hockin. 

Richard, 1622-99. 

Bridget, widow of Kellond, 1676-97. 

John, 1678-1703. 

Ann, widow of Richard, 1655-1705. 


1569 Wilmot, d. John. 

1573 Prudence. 

1574 Richard. 
1576 John. 

1592 Mary, d. Richard. 
1592 John, s. Richard. 
1603 Humphrey, s. John. 
1605 , d. John. 

1607 William, s. Richard, Esq. 

1608 Edward, s. Richard, Esq. 
1618 Jane, d. John. 

1619 Elizabeth, d. John. 
1621 Gartred. 

1654 Ruth, d. Richard, Esq, 

1655 Elizabeth, d. Richard, Esq. 
1657 Jane, d. Richard, Esq. 
7658 Mary, d. Richard, Esq. 

1659 Richard, '5 and 2, d. Richard, Esq, 

1660 Garthred, d. Richard. 
1662 Ann, d. Richard. 
1664 Ann, d. Richard. 


1589 Mr. Richard Coffin and Eliz. Loveis. 

1589 Mary, d. of John Wollacomb. 

1596 Wilmot, d. John and Mary Gary = Farrington. 

1607 Mary, d. of Richard = Moore. 

1609 Ebbot = Levalles. 

1613 Margaret = Richard Pyne. 

1616 John, s. and h. of Richard = Harding. 

1617 Wilmot = Weekes. 
1623 Elizabeth = Fortescue. 
1628 Elizabeth = Crust. 
1633 Katherine = Hocking. 


1555 Richard, Esq. 
1569 Wilmot, widow, 
1571 John, s. John. 
1591 William Addington. 
1608 John, Esq. 
1617 Richard, Esq. 
1623 John, Esq. 

1654 Elizabeth, d. Richard. 

1660 Richard, s. and h. of Richard, Esq. 

1662 Ann, d. Richard. 

1663 James, gent. 

1665 Dorothy, wife of Richard. 

1666 Elizabeth, d. of Richard. 




Sir William Coffin was born about 1480. The British realm was 
then all Catholic : bell, book, and candle, high mas?, and confessionals, 
were paramount in chapel and church. Convents and other monastic in- 
stitutions, with their cloistered walls and hidden ways, possessed a large 
portion of its most fertile soil, its most picturesque territory. Religion, all 
the more sincere and honest for adversity, grew corrupt with a pampered 
priesthood, lost the respect and confidence of the laity. Their love of 
domination and arbitrary exactions created disaffection, and paved the way 
for a cross no longer a symbol. The indulgences sold by Leo the Tenth 
to build St. Peter's, glut his own extravagance and the greed of his favorites, 
aroused Christendom to a sense of the universal degeneracy that made a 
farce of faith. 

If the motives of Henry the Eighth were not of the purest, the power 
of the throne and the good sense of the people co-operated to cast off a 
yoke become insupportable. England, insular and enlightened, took a 
leading part in the Reformation. From our present distant view, events 
must have moved rapidly to consummate so great a revolution in so brief 
a period. Conservative minds clung with tenacity to their old faith and 
institutions, and there was so much in the new repugnant and repulsive 
that it was only brought about amid great tribulation. Still, within thirty 
years England, in 1530 Catholic, became Protestant. 

The presence at court of Sir William Coffin, the intimate relations be- 
tween him and Henry for twenty years, shown in the bequest of his imple- 
ments of the chase, of which they no doubt shared in the toils and pleas- 
ure often together, the position he held at the coronation of Ann Boleyn, 
give us reason to believe that his own theological opinions coincided with 
those of the King. 

The bloated Bluebeard that occupies his niche in history differs so es- 
sentially in appearance and character from that kingly form and chivalric 
spirit, that intellectual expression and amiable disposition, that distinguished 
Henry when he mounted the throne, that some apology seems called for in 
taking any pride that Sir William Coffin was his friend. Coffin died in 
1538, and the King had hardly entered upon that bloody career now re- 


garded with execration. In his earlier manhood few monarchs had been so 
much beloved and respected. But, thwarted in his reasonable hopes of 
domestic happiness by a marriage not of his own choosing, he became 
soured, arbitrary, self-indulgent. Still, the law of England, that kings can 
do no wrong, is apt to blind loyal subjects to nice distinctions, so far as re- 
spects them ; and the favors conferred on Coffin by the King may have 
made him less disposed to criticise. 

He had married Lady Mannors, of Derbyshire, for which county, in 
1529, he was chosen Knight of the Shire to Parliament. While on his 
way to attend its sessions, passing by a churchyard, he observed near the 
road a multitude of people standing idle. Inquiring the cause, he was told 
that they had brought a corpse thither to be buried, but the priest refused 
to do his office unless they delivered him the poor man's cow, the only 
quick goods he left, for a mortuary. Sir William sent for the priest, and 
required him to do his office to the dead, who peremptorily refused unless 
he had his mortuary first. Thereupon he ordered the priest to be put into 
the poor man's grave, and earth to be thrown in upon him ; and, as he 
still persisted in his refusal, there was still more earth thrown in, until the 
obstinate priest was either altogether, or well-nigh, suffocated. 

Now, thus to handle a priest in those days was a very audacious pro- 
ceeding ; but Sir William, with the favor he had at court and the interest 
he had in the House, diverted the storm. He so lively represented the 
mischievous consequences of priests' arbitrarily demanding mortuaries, that 
the then Parliament, taking it into their serious consideration, prohibited 
priests from exacting more than from three shillings to ten, according to 
the property left. This act against excessive mortuaries is classed by the 
historians, with two more, as bringing about the Reformation and Eng- 
land's declaration of independence of the Papal throne. It becomes of 
some importance as an historical event to be remembered. We mention 
it here as recalling similar incidents in the life of Tristram, when he took 
upon himself the sole responsibility of saving the wreckage at Nantucket ; 
of Isaac, when he fought with the Brabanders against Austria or saved the 
burning ship by forcing the men back to their quarters. 




When I recently read the invitation of Mr. Allen Coffin, in The In- 
quirer, of Nantucket, for December 6, 1879, to the then proposed gather- 
ing of the race at Nantucket to commemorate the death of Tristram, in 
1 68 1, it seemed so full of the information the readers of the present publi- 
cation might need, that I wrote to request him to permit me to insert it 
wholly or in part. He generously consented. In the faith that we have 
all but one motive — to bring within the reach of all of Tristram's descend- 
ants what sheds any additional light on his character and career — it is here 
presented. I find it difficult to omit any part of it, unless what in other 
forms has already found place. 


By Allen Coffin. 

With the death of Edward the Confessor was practically terminated 
the Saxon dynasty of England. WiUiam, Duke of Normandy, whom Ed- 
ward had appointed his successor, landed at Pevensey, on the 28th of 
September, 1066. He met Harold on the field near Hastings, and, after 
a long battle, Harold fell pierced with an arrow, and his soldiers fled from 
the field panic-stricken. The Norman conquest was thus achieved, and 
William the Conqueror soon after crowned king. 

Accompanying William was an army of sixty thousand men, volunteers 
from adjacent parts of the continent, who crowded to his camp at the 
mouth of the Dive, eager to share in the vicissitudes of the campaign. This 
was a wonderfully romantic age, and William was aided by many sovereigns 
and princes, and a vast body of nobility from the different kingdoms. Those 
who accompanied the Conqueror became the barons, and knights, and 
esquires, and sergeants of feudal times, and in the divisions of the riches 


of the conquered domain became proprietors of vast estates, castles, ab- 
beys, villages, and even whole towns. 

There was one man among William's conquering host in whom most of 
this large assembly will ever have an abiding interest. He was a general 
of the army, and his name was Richard Coffyn. From what province he 
came, or what ancestry he boasted, or what life he had pursued prior to 
his adventurous campaign, are facts which no friendly hand has yet lifted 
from the shrouds of oblivion. He shared in the spoils of the conquest, 
became a tenant of the crown, and his name was written in the Domesday 
Book. All of the followers of William were noble in right of their victory 
and foreign birth, and the parish of Alwington, in the county of Devon, 
appears to have been conferred upon him, with the title of Sir Richard 
Coffin, Knight, etc. Portledge was the Coffin manor, and, through a period 
of more than eight centuries, streaming down to the present time, an un- 
broken line of inheritance has been preserved. 

In the history of the County of Devon, in England, honorable mention 
is made of Sir Ellis Coffin, Knight of Clist and Ingarby, in the days of 
King John ; of Sir Richard Coffin, of Alwington, in the time of Henry II.; 
of Sir Jeffrey Coffin and Combe Coffin under Henry III., and numerous 
other knightly descendants during successive reigns, till the time of Henry 
VIII. Sir William Coffin, Sheriff of Devonshire, was highly preferred at 
the court of Henry VIII., and accompanied the king as one of the eighteen 
chosen by him on a tournament in France in 15 19. He was Master of the 
Horse at the coronation of Anne Boleyn, and a gentleman of the Privy 
Council. He was also High Steward of the Manor and Liberties of Standon, 
County of Hertford. At his death he bequeathed to his royal master, King 
Henry, with whom he had been in especial grace and favor, all of his hawks, 
and his best horses and cart. As he left no issue, he conveyed the Manor 
of East Higginston, County of Devon, to his eldest brother's son, Richard 
Coffin, Esq., of Portledge. Sir William's monument, in Standon Church, 
is mentioned in " Weever's Funeral Monuments " (p. 534). 

Nicholas Coffin, of Brixton (one account says Butler's Parish), in Dev- 
onshire, in his will, dated September 12, 16 13, and proved November 3, 
16 1 3, mentions his wife Joan and sons Peter, Nicholas, Tristram, John, 
and daughter Anne. He was the grandfather to the emigrant to New Eng- 

Peter Coffin, of Brixton, in his will, dated December i, 1627, and 
proved March 13, 1628, provided that his wife, Joan Thember, shall have 
possession of the land during her life, and then the said property shall go 
to his son and heir, Tristram, " who is to be provided for according to his 



degree and calling." His son John is to have certain property when he 
becomes twenty years of age. He mentions his daughters Joan, De- 
borah, Eunice, and Mary, and refers to his tenement in Butler's Parish 
called Silferhay. He was the father of the emigrant. 

John Coffin, of Brixton, an uncle of the emigrant, who died without 
issue, in his will, dated January 4, 1628, and proved April 3, 1628, ap- 
points his nephew, Tristram Coffin, his executor, and gives legacies to all 
of Tristram's sisters, all under twelve years of age. 

I have been led to seek the caui^e of Tristram's removal to America, 
but upon that subject the oracles are silent and tongues dumb. Was it 
that he might enjoy a larger religiou-; liberty, or to escape persecution, or 
was it the same love of adventure that induced his ancestor, Sir Richard 
Coffin, to embark with the Duke of Normandy six centuries before? Let 
us look at the contemporaneous history of England. We shall find that 
the time which covers Tristram's mature life in England, about fifteen 
years, marks a most eventful period— the moment when intellectual free- 
dom was claimed unconditionally by Englishmen as an inalienable right, 
and when ecclesiastical forms were not spared by the revolution of the 

James I., whose reign had been adorned by Shakespeare and Bacon, 
died in 1625, when Tristram was twenty years old. Charles I. had been 
upon the throne but two years when Tristram's father died. The Petition 
of Right, in 1628, sought to limit the powers of the Crown, and the King 
soon after abolished the Parliament and established the Star Chamber. 
Puritanism was making rapid strides, and large numbers of Puritans were 
leaving England. So great was the exodus that the King prohibited their 
departure, and Hampden, Pym, and Cromwell were prevented from leav- 
ing. About this time the Duke of Buckingham was assassinated. In 
1638 the Scots, to maintain their ecclesiastical rights, took up arms against 
the King, having formed the celebrated Solemn League and Covenant, 
and sustained the Parliament in its opposition to Charles. The Earl of 
Strafford and Archbishop of Canterbury, as chief advisers of the King, were 
impeached and beheaded (the former in 1641, and the latter in 1644). 
The Presbyterians, who were now a majority in the Commons, procured the 
exclusion of Bishops from the House of Lords, in 1641, which was followed 
by an act in 1643 entirely abolishing Episcopacy, so Charles began to re- 
alize that without Bishops there would be no King. Under these circum- 
stances the Lord Parliament convened. 

The irrepressible conflict between Charles and the Parliament came to 
a crisis in 1642, and in August of that year the royal standard was raised 


at Nottingham. The King was generally supported by the nobility, the 
landed gentry, the High Church party, and the Catholics ; and the Parlia- 
ment was sustained by the mercantile and middle classes, and the lower or- 
der of the great towns. On which side of this conflict would Tristram 
Coffin most naturally have gone ? He was of the landed gentry, and, I 
think, a High Churchman, Conformably to his father's will, he was to be 
provided for "according to his degree and calling." He must therefore have 
had a calling — a profession — he may have taken holy orders. He was un- 
questionably a royalist and a Cavalier, and the very year of the appeal to 
arms, 1642, after the conflict had been waged, Tristram Coffin, at the age 
of thirty-seven, left all of his comfortable estates in Old England and em- 
barked for America, bringing with him his wife and five small children, his 
mother, then aged fifty-eight, and two unmarried sisters, and none of them 
ever returned. I believe that, having embraced the royal cause, he was 
compelled to leave England, and took with him all of his near relatives ; 
that his valuable estates at Dorsetshire and at Brixton, the tenements in 
Butler's Parish, mentioned in his father's and uncle's wills, were seques- 
trated. That he was a leading spirit in the time of Charles I., and proved 
his loyalty by unmistakable acts which rendered him obnoxious to the 
Roundheads and Parliament fanatics, 1 have unshaken confidence. 

He was rich in England — he was otherwise when landed in America. 
He married Dionis Stevens, of Brixton, County of Devon. Pie first settled 
at Salisbury, Mass., and the same year removed to Haverhill, where his 
name appears as a witness to an Indian deed of that place, dated Novem- 
ber 15, 1642. Three more children were born to them in Haverhill, and 
one at Newbury. Of their nine children, the last born in England and the 
first born in America died in infancy. All of the others married and had 
children. He was licensed to keep an inn at Newbury, and a ferry across 
the Merrimac River. He subsequently returned to Salisbury and became 
a county magistrate. 

He came to Nantucket in 1659 on a prospecting voyage, having ob- 
tained Peter Folger from Martha's Vineyard as an interpreter of the Indian 
language. The company which purchased the island was formed at Salis- 
bury after his return. His son, James Coffin, who came in the boat with 
the family of Thomas Macy, which voyage Whittier has immortalized in 
his poem of " The Exiles," had doubtless accompanied his father on the 
former voyage. All of the early deeds conveying land in Nantucket to 
this company recite first the name of Tristram Coffin as a grantee. He 
and his sons at one time owned about one-fourth part of Nantucket, and 
the whole of Tuckernuck. 



I do not think that personal rehgious persecutions had anything to do 
with his removal to Nantucket, although he doubtless despised the in- 
tolerant spirit of Essex County, which prompted the flights of Roger 
Williams and Thomas Macy, notwithstanding he was at the time a county 

His place of residence in Nantucket is described in a deed as being at 
Northam or Coppomet Harbor (Capaum Pond being probably open to the 
sea), near the old shear-pen gate. He doubtless had other houses in this 
vicinity, where a village grew up around him, and a monument has re- 
cently been placed upon the spot supposed to have been his homestead. 

He was the first Chief Magistrate of the island, having been com- 
missioned by Lord Lovelace, on the 29th of June, 167 1 ; and, together 
with Thomas Mayhew, who was the first Chief Magistrate of Martha's 
Vineyard, and two associates from each island, constituting a General 
Court for the two islands, enacted the first prohibitory liquor law of which 
the world has any record — a marvel of legal preciseness and acumen. 

He died in Nantucket, on the third day of October, a.d. 1681, at the 
age of seventy-six, and probably sleeps in the ancient burial-ground on the 
hill, just east of Maxcy's Pond. 

" The earliest ray of the golden day 
On that hallowed spot is cast ; 
And the evening sun as he leaves the world 
Looks kindly on that spot last." 

One year from next October will occur the second centenary of the 
death of Tristram Coffin. The multitude of descendants all over the 
world who claim him with pride as their common ancestor may desire to 
rear a suitable monument to his memory in the land where he died, and 
where his liberal, high-minded, and Christian character, not inappropriately 
compared by Benjamin Franklin Folger with that of William Penn, found 
such practical opportunity of expression in his relations with the Indians. 
I feel that I echo the sentiments of the descendants in Nantucket when 
I invite all the other descendants to a grand reunion of the Coffin family 
in Nantucket, in October, 1881, to participate in exercises commemorative 
of a noble life — the life of our common ancestor, Tristram Coffin, the first 
of his name in America. 

The Clan. — The Coffin Reunion is now so near at hand that we are 
enabled to make some statements of fact concerning the same. The New 


Bedford brass Band will arrive on the morning of the i6th, in time to pro- 
ceed to Surf-side where the clam-bake is to be provided. The clam-bake 
about noon will be gotten up by A. F. Copeland, of Boston, and will in- 
clude chowders, baked and fried fish of the different varieties, lobsters, etc., 
garnished with the products of the season. 

The oration on this occasion will be by Tristram Coffin, Esq., of 
Poughkeepsie, N. Y., a gentleman well qualified by name and attainments 
to do ample justice to the occasion. An original poem will be read, and 
other literary exercises will follow, interspersed with music. 

On the second day, Wednesday, the seventeenth of August, the memorial 
exercises will be held at the Atheneum Hall, on which occasion Charles 
Carleton Coffin, of Boston, will make the oration, and a poem by Robert 
Barry Coffin, Esq., of New York, will be read. Other speeches will be in- 
troduced on this occasion, as may be hereafter arranged. These exercises 
will take place in the forenoon, and in the afternoon a pilgrimage will be 
made to the old homestead place of Tristram Coffin near Capaum Pond, 
accompanied with the Band of Music, where appropriate commemorative 
exercises will be held. It is proposed to have some entertainment in the 
evening at the Atheneum Hall, the precise character of which has not been 
fully decided upon. 

The last day's exercises will consist of a Breakfast or Banquet at Surf- 
side, at which Mr. Copeland will make his best endeavor to lay tables in 
the highest style of his profession. The Committee make assurances that 
this affair will surpass any previous effort of the kind ever made upon the 
island. The dessert will be served in plates of the finest French china, 
decorated with the Coffin Coat of Arms, and the coffee and tea in a new 
style cup and saucer decorated with the same arms, and imported expressly 
for this occasion by Charles E. Wiggin, of Boston. Prof. Selden J. Coffin, 
of Lafayette College, Easton, Pa., will make the oration after this repast, and 
Dr. Arthur Elwell Jenks, of Nantucket, will read an original poem. Other 
literary and musical exercises will follow, and the afternoon's exercises will 
conclude with an anthem written for the occasion, in which the entire family 
will be invited to join, the accompaniment being performed by the Band. 

In the evening, at Surf-side, a Grand Ball will impart a festive conclud- 
ing feature of the Reunion exercises. Smith's Quadrille Band furnishing the 
music. This, like all the other exercises, is expected to be the most re- 
cherche affair ever indulged in upon the island. 

Messrs. Editors — Rumors of the Coffin gathering have been in the 
air even here for some time, and lately the Inquirer and Mirror, with the 



names of its publishers, familliar a quarter of a century ago, has come to 
us, bringing a more definite word. Although over twenty years have 
passed since I could claim to be a citizen of your island, interest in Nan- 
tucket especially the Nantucket of thirty or forty years ago, has suffered 
no diminution. Most people have but one home, and let them go where 
they may, in the fairest of lands even, in their hours of quiet reflection, 
and especially when the shadows of their life begin to lengthen, the sun 
seems to shine with greater brightness on the spot where they passed their 
childhood. So it is with our home on the " Isle of the Sea." And these 
rumors of the Coffin gathering have revived the old associations, and 
peopled your homes and streets with those who once filled them. Every 
spot, from Siasconset to Maddaket, and down to the South Shore, has been 
gone over, and anecdote, tradition, and legend have come up, perhaps to 
be told to some little company who were not -io favored as to be born on 
the island, but who never tire of hearing about it. 

By the way, your humble correspondent was asked a year of two ago to 
contribute one of a course of lectures given here for some local charity. 
Havino- often spoken to the larger part of the probable audience, and be- 
ing too much occupied to write anything new, I tried to beg off. " Can't 
you just talk about Nantucket, as you have done in company ? " " Why, 
the people here don't care about that." "But you must do something." 
"Well, if you will take the responsibility, I will give such a talk." And 
so I did. Just brushed up my history, you know, especially of Revolu- 
tionary times, telling the people that no town contributed more, negatively, 
by its losses and sufferings, to the cause of National freedom than Nan- 
tucket. Then I talked about the whale-fishery and sealife. You see if I 
made mistakes there, or embellished a little where it was necesssary, no 
one of my audience of lands-people knew it. Then I told about '•' sheep- 
shearing," and the good old Society of Friends, the mother church, and a 
good one as we could find before the seeds of strife came in and quenched 
the simple charities of the beautiful island life. Then I drew portraits, and 
told anecdotes of the notables, Keziah Coffin and her country house ; 
Cousin EUzabeth Black, with her wondrous speech ; Franklin Folger, and 
others, ending with a quotation fromWhittier's sweet ballad, " The Exiles," 
so dear to a Nantucketer. The audience paid the tribute (not to the 
speaker, but to the island and its people) of profound attention, with mingled 
seriousness and laughter, for an hour, and the expression is still occasionally 
given that the evening on Nantucket was one of most enjoyable interest. 

Thus it is everywhere. There seems to have been something in the 
original stock, or the environments, in ihe business, the social and religious 


atmosphere, or the pure sea breezes of the island, which made it a place 
that every wanderer soon learns to be proud of ; and that you who are left 
to sustain the honors of the old town may well think of with satisfaction. 
How well and nobly the town's decline was striven against, especially after 
the great fire. Is it not recorded in some book of light, to the credit of 
many, both of those who have passed on and you who are left ? And it 
almost seemed, when I read of the inauguration of the railroad, that your 
crowning had come. I confess to a latent wish not to have the old-time 
customs too much lost in the modernisms of a fashionable watering-place. 
We can get these somewhere else ; at Nantucket we want Nantucket. To 
go to the South Shore in a cart-bodied wagon somehow seems most natu- 
ral. But that perhaps is sentiment only, and people can't live on senti- 
ment ; so I am glad to learn of improvement, and hope that you all who 
have nobly striven for it and tried to keep things up will reap a reward. 
Whether a closely occupied life will allow me to be at your gathering is 
yet uncertain. I shall try for it, anyway. I wanted to make sure, through 
your columns, if you will allow it to an old friend of expressing interest 
in the reunion ; and will you pardon a suggestion, which may be superflu- 
fluous. At the centennial celebrations at Concord and Lexington, I no- 
ticed that those less familiar with the spots of interest than we who live 
near, found great satisfaction in looking at the placards which marked his- 
toric places and houses. To the Cofifin family especially there are many 
such places at Nantucket. Mary Starbuck, the '* great woman," daughter 
of Tristram Coffin, and wife of Nathaniel Starbuck, will be thought of with 
much interest. Where her house stood is generally known. It may not 
be so well known that the house, moved down, is still standing and retain- 
ing much of its original form. The house of William Rotch, Sr., is also 
standing, moved up from lower Main street, and in shape is unchanged. 
I have the authority of Franklin Folger for these statements. If you care 
to identify these places, and soma others, and some islander cannot readily 
do it for you, I shall be happy to write to you further. Won't you want to 
designate the spot "up west," which was the birthplace of Dr. Franklin's 
mother ; and the first Friends' burying-ground, where Mary Starbuck was 
buried ; and the house in town where Lucretia Mott was born, and lived 
until she was twelve years old ; and the site of Keziah (Miriam) Coffin's 
house, where, in the Revolution, she sold smuggled goods to the distressed 
islanders ; and the site of the old Friends' meeting-house, corner of Main 
and Pleasant Streets — an unsightly structure, guiltless of paint or architec- 
tural design, but to many of us a sacred spot in memory, especially at 
" quarterly meeting time," when the immense building was crowded in 


every part with hushed and reverent worshippers, and the sweet tones of 
some gifted messenger of the gospel (perhaps Elizabeth Robinson, from 
England) breathed around the old oaken braces and timbers, holding us 
children in reverent awe ? Shall we ever hear the like again ? No ; but 
something else, and in some respects something better, has come to take 
its place. Won't you want to write large the old doggerel we used to re- 
peat, even if it does depreciate the Husseys, one line of which is, 

" The Coffins, noisy, fractious, loud," 

not omitting the last stanza, of which I only heard within the year, that 

" The Pinkhams beat the devil." 

How they beat him, my esteemed friend B., who sent me the stanza, did 
not inform me. And so we might go on, from North Shore to Newtown. 
If I can do anything to promote the interest or enjoyment of your reunion 
it will give me great pleasure. 

In meeting here and there with ex-Nantucketers who are interested in 
the island, even if they give less sign of interest than some others, it has 
seemed to us that there is a dearth of circulars or something to tell us what 
to do. If it be not much, it will have the merit of a hearty regard for old 
and new Nantucket. Do save us a copy of the albertype of Tristram 
Coffin's house, at Newbury. A friend of ours this way has a friend who 
has been in the house in old England from which the Coffin's came. It is 
now about eight hundred years old, and is still occupied and well preserved. 
This lady, who is herself a descendant of the Coffins, has a view of the 
house, which I hope to see. Can't you get copies for your gathering ? 
Hoping with some of my family to ride over the railroad, and in a " cart- 
bodied wagon," too, next month, and to take the hands of many whom I 
used to meet in other days, and still hold in much esteem, I am 



BiLLERiCA, July 28, 1 88 1. 

[We are pleased to hear from our former schoolfellow of over half a 
century ago, whom we had supposed had long since been gathered to his 
fathers. Although we were one of the small boys, and he one of the big 
ones at the opening of the Coffin School in 1827, we well remember him 
as the acknowled leader of the " Chookies " in our snow-ball battles with 
the " Newtowners," which were carried on with such relentless fury in 


those times. We would inform him that there are still quite a number of 
the "Clio boys" living, and suppose many of them would be willing to 
open a correspondence with him. Benjamin F. Coffin and Franklin Fol- 
ger still reside on Nantucket ; Robert G. Coffin in San Francisco ; David 
P. Eldridge in Milford, Mass. ; Frederick A. Hussey in Brookline, Mass., 
and Andrew J. Morton in Boston. The rest of the boys are dead, only 
two of whom died at home, one from sickness, and one — Edward Worth — 
drowned at Brant Point. — Eds.] 

When the time arrived for the celebration, hundreds of the descendants 
of Tristram flocked to Nantucket from all over the continent. They were 
cordially greeted and warmly welcomed by their kindred belonging to the 
Island. The weather did not prove altogether propitious. The winds blew 
cold and the rain fell in torrents. Occasional intervals of sunshine gave 
hope of permanent clearing, but several of the promised repetitions of the 
festal ways of the earliest times were given up. Enough, however, of the 
pleasures prepared remained practicable, to render the event one long to be 



Will of Sir Isaac Coffin. 

{Extracted from the Principal Registry of the Probate^ Divorce, arid Ad- 
miralty Division of the High Court of Justice, in the Prerogative Court 
of Canterbury.') 

This is my last Will and Testament, hereby revoking all others I may 
have heretofore made. Having disposed of all my property in England 
that I had in the funds to my nearest relations, named in a Deed of Trust, 
I bequeath the Magdalen Islands, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, to ray 
nephew, John Townsend Coffin, during the term of his natural life, then, 
at his demise, to his son Isaac Tristram Coffin, and his issue male. Should 
the said Isaac Tristram Coffin leave no issue male, then to his brothers in 
succession and their male heirs ; failing in male heirs in that family I then 
leave the said Magdalen Islands to my nephew Henry Edward Coffin and 
his male issue ; he failing to have issue male I then bequeath the said isl- 
ands to the sons of my late Cousin, William Coffin, in succession, and 
their male heirs ; failing in male heirs of said WiUiam Coffin, then the isl- 
ands to become the property of the sons of my Cousin Thomas Coffin, of 
Three Rivers, Lower Canada, in succession ; should they die and leave no 
issue male, I then give the said Magdalen Islands to my Godson Isaac 
Campbell Coffin, now an officer in the East India Company's Service, and 
his sons in succession ; failing in issue male from the said Isaac Coffin, I 
give the said Islands to his brother Sebright Coffin ; should all these above 
enumerated Coffins die without issue male, then I leave the said Islands 
to my nephew, Commander William Barwell and his issue male ; faihng to 
have male heirs, I then leave the said Magdalen Islands to the person who 
may prove to be my Heir-at-Law. As the Islands were granted to me for 
my services during the American War, 1 775-1 783, and in Canada during 
Lord Dorchester's time, I request they may remain as an Heir-Loom m 
the family, and that whoever succeeds to them may assume and bear the 
Arms of Coffin. My property at Boston, N. America, under the care of 


William Foster Otis, Esq., amounting by the last account to Eleven thou- 
sand five hundred pounds, I desire may be left under his control until it 
amounts to Twenty Thousand pounds, then the interest to be paid to John 
Townsend Coffin and the principal to Isaac Tristram Coffin, he having no 
children, then to his brothers in succession, on the demise of the Father 
John Townsend Coffin ; failing in male issue, the Family of the said John 
Townsend Coffin, Then the Twenty thousand pounds to be divided 
among any female children the said John Townsend Coffin may leave. I 
name Charles Earle, Esq., William Earle, Esq., Hardman Earle, Esq., 
Richard Earle, Esq., Barrister, and William Foster Otis, Esq., of the City 
of Boston, N. America, as my Trustees and Executors, requesting as an 
old friend of their families they will forgive the trouble I give them. 

Isaac Coffin, Admiral, [l.s.] 

Signed, sealed, and delivered in the presence 
of us, the 15th day of March, 1839. 

Jno. S. Carden, Real Adm'l, Cheltenham. 
S. Martin Colquitt, R. N., Do. Cheltenham. 

This is a Codicil to my Will. Unable to make a distribution of my prop- 
erty among my relations, from the difficulty attending my obtaining a re- 
lease from the Trustees of the late Lady Coffin, I hereby leave to my 
Trustees, named in my Will, with all my funded property in the Three pr. 
Cent Consols and reduced annuities, the interest, amounting to Seven hun- 
dred and thirty-eight pounds, to be paid to my nephew, John Townsend 
Coffin, at his death, the said interest to be paid to Isaac Tristram Coffin 
and his heirs lawfully begotten. 

Isaac Coffin, Admiral. 

: L.s. : 

Signed, sealed, and delivered in the presence 

of us, the subscribing trustees. 

Thomas Roe, Major H. E. I. C^ S., 

George Dixon, Vicar of Helmsley, Yorkshire. 

Appeared personally, Samuel Martin Colquitt, of the Parish of Chel- 
tenham, in the County of Gloucester, Esquire, made oath that he is one 
of the subscribed witnesses to the last Will and Testament of Sir Isaac 
Coffin, late of Cheltenham, in the County of Gloucester, Baronet, de- 
ceased, who died on the twenty-third day of July last, the said will bear- 
ing date the fifteenth day of March, one thousand eight hundred and thirty 
pine. And he further made oath that he was present at the execution of 


the said Will by the said deceased, and that the said Will was signed at 
the foot or the end thereof in manner, as now appears by the said Testator, 
in the presence of this deponent and of John Surram Garden, the other 
witness thereto subscribed, present at the same time, who set and sub- 
scribed their names as witnesses to the said will in the presence of the said 
Testator. S. Martin Colquitt, R.N. 

On the 24th day of December, 1839, t^^ said Samuel Martin Colquitt, 
Esquire, was duly sworn to the truth of the above Affidavit before me, 

Francis Close, 
Perpetual Curate of Cheltenham, Commissioner. 

Appeared personally Thomas Roe, of Cheltenham, in the County 
of Gloucester, Esquire, and made oath that he is one of the subscribed 
witnesses to the Codicil to the last will and Testament of Sir Isaac 
Coffin, late of Cheltenham, in the County of Gloucester, Baronet, de- 
ceased, who died on the twenty-third day of July last, the said Will bear- 
ing date the Fifteenth day of March, one thousand eight hundred and thirty 
nine, and the said Codicil being without date. And he further made oath 
that he was present at the execution of the said Codicil by the said de- 
ceased, on or about the Fifteenth or Twentieth day of May last, and he 
further made oath that the said Codicil was signed at the end or foot 
thereof in manner as now appears by the said Testator in the presence of 
this deponent and of the Reverend George Dixon, Clerk, the other sub- 
scribed witness thereto, both present at the same time, who set and sub- 
scribed their names as witnesses to the said Codicil in the presence of the 
said Testator. Thomas Roe. 

On the thirteenth day of January, 1840, the said Thomas Roe, Esq., 
was duly sworn to the truth of the aforesaid Affidavit before me, 

Francis Close, 
Perpetual Curate of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, Commrs. 

Proved at London (with a Codicil), 15 January, 1840, before the Judge 
by the oath of William Earle, Esq., one of the Executors to whom admon 
was granted, having been first sworn by Commissioner, duly to administer. 
Power reserved of making the like grant to Charles Earle, Hardman 
Earle, and Richard Earle, Esquires, and William Foster Otis, the other 
Executors when they shall apply for the same. Effects under ^^2 5,000. 


The descendants of William Gayer and of his admirable daughters, Da- 
maris and Dorcas, are so many and so estimable that in the faith that they 
may be pleased to possess the wills of William and his brother Sir John, 
they are printed here from the " New England Gen. Register, vol. xxxi., p. 
297. Mr. Folger furnished full copies of these Wills, to be preserved in 
the archives of the N. E. Historic Genealogical Society. 

Will of William Gayer, Sr., Esq. 

/, William Gayer, of the Island of Nantucket, being sick but of sound 
mind and memory, make this my last will. Unto my son William Gayer, 
one Share of land on the Island of Nantucket, with all the privileges 
belonging (if my said son shall ever come hither again). To my dau. 
Damaris Coffin, one eighth part of a share of land on the Island of Nan- 
tucket, of that land I had of my Father-in-law, Edward Starbuck. I 
give my daughter, Dorcas Starbuck, one Eighth part of a Share of [said] 
land. My part of the Island of Muskeget to my two daughters, Damaris 
Coffin and Dorcas Starbuck, Equally to be divided between them. To 
my house-keeper, Patience Foot, one Cow and forty Sheep with Common- 
age for them as also half of the barn and try house, with half the garden, 
half the land and fence, about my dwelling house, half the lot and fence 
towards Monomoy, the horse pasture Exepted, as also the West Chamber 
and Garret, and half the lean to of my now dwelling house. I give to 
Africa, a negro, once my servant, twenty Sheep and Commonage for them 
and for one horse, as also the East Chamber of my now dwelling house, 
and half the leanto, and the other half of my barn and try house with the 
half of all the lands and fence about my house, and the half of the lot to- 
wards Monomoy. I will that my dau., Damaris Coffin, have the use of 
the rest of my Dwelling house, if she should come hither to live. My 
two Daughters, Damaris Coffin and Dorcas Starbuck, Joynt Executrices 

of this my last will and testament. 

William Gayer. 

Sept. 21, 1 7 ID. 

In presence of 

Richard Gardner, Eleazer Folger, Junr., Eunice Gardner, 
Jabez Bunker, Judith Gardner. 

Probated 24 day Oct. 17 10. 

Eleazer Folger, Regr. James Coffin, 

Judge of Probate. 


Sir John Gayer's Will. 

I John Gayer, of Bombay, Knight, in perfect health do make this my 
last Will and Testament. My Body to be Interred at the Discretion of 
my hereafter named Executrix, and if I die in India, in the tomb of my 
former Wife. Debts discharged I give as followeth : Unto my Brother 
William Gayer, of the Island of Nantucket, One Hundred Pounds Ster- 
lino-. Unto his son, William Gayer, my nephew, now in the East Indies, 
Eight Thousand Pounds Sterling. Unto the children of Eldest Sister Jane 
Lee, Five Hundreds Pound Sterling, to be Equally devided amongst 
them, and in case of any of their Mortality, before Marriage, their part to 
the Survivor. Unto the children of my Sister, Joan Hooper, Seven Hun- 
dred Pounds Sterling, to be Equally Divided amongst them, and in Case of 
Either of their Mortality before Marriage their part to the Survivor. Un- 
to the children of my Sister, Elizabeth Matthews, Two Hundred Pounds 
Sterling, to be Equally Devided amongst them, etc. Unto my Niece 
Elizabeth Gayer, Two Thousand Pounds Sterling to be kept in the hands 
of my Execturix and Improved by her for her maintenance while she lives 
a single life ; but if she Marry, at the Day of her Marriage, the Principal 
and what is gained thereby, except so much as Defrays the Charge of her 
Maintenance before, is all to be paid her, but in Case of her Decease be- 
fore Marriage, then that sum of Two Thousand Pounds, with what is 
Gained thereby I give to my Above Mentioned Nephew, William Gayer, to 
be forthwith paid him, besides the sum of Eight Thousand Pounds before 
Mentioned. Unto the children of Robert Harper, my Deceased wife's 
Brother, Three Hundred Pounds Sterling, to be Equally devided amongst 
them etc. Unto Joseph Harper, my Deceased wife's Brother, if he be 
alive at the time of my Decease, One Hundred Pounds Sterling. Unto 
the children of my Cousin, Mercy Throgmorton, Four Hundred Pounds 
Sterling etc. Unto the children of my Cousin John Rither, deceased. 
Two Thousand Pounds Sterling etc. Unto my cousin, James Car, 
Two Hundred Pounds Sterling, in case he survives me. Unto my 
Cousin, Elizabeth Thrip, Ten Pounds Sterling. Unto the children of 
Sister-in-Law, Judith Battin, Two Hundred Pounds Sterling, to be Equally 
devided Amongst them etc. Unto my Cousin, Lucy hole, fifty Pounds 
Sterling. Unto my Cousin, Rachel Dale, if she be alive at the time of my 
Decease, Ten Pounds Sterling. Unto my loving Friend, Mr. Thomas 
Wooley, Secretary of the East India Company, Fifty Pounds Sterling. 
Unto my loving Friend, Mr. Barnard Wiche, of Surrat, Fifty Pounds Ster- 


ling. Unto Mr. Robert Luynfer, of Surrat, Fifty Pounds Sterling, if he be 
alive at the time of my Decease. I Dedicate and Devote to God, for the 
Service of his Church, Five Thousand Pounds Sterling, to be disposed of 
by the persons hereafter mentioned, to yonng Students for the Ministry 
and to such as are Newly Entered into the Sacred Office, to furnish them 
v/ith What [may be] Needful to make them most useful in the discharge 
of that great trust for which they are devoted to God ; and it's my Earnest 
desire that those persons amongst whom this sum shall be distributed 
may be men of Sober, Moderate principles, not inclined to Domination 
nor to unnecessary Seperation, and to Express my mind more fully I 
say unto men of such Principles as the late Reverend and truly Worthy 
Mr. Richard Baxter was, in whom the Primitive Spirit of holiness, Love 
and Moderation did brightly shine, from whose works I give God thanks 
I have received great benefit. Now, the persons I most earnestly request 
in Conjunction with my wife and Nephew William Gayer to undertake the 
Distributing of I have so solemnly devoted, are the Right WorshipfuU 
Henry Ashurst, Bant, and Mr. Thomas Wooley, before mentioned. I do 
further request that they will all be assisting to my Beloved Wife in the 
whole management of her affairs. 

If my Estate amounts to less than what is in my present books, Ending 
the last of July, 17 10, when it arrives in England, amounting what is in 
Rupees at two shillings and six pence to a Rupee, then I order that Every 
Legacy herein mentioned shall be so much less in proportion as the whole 
of my Estate at the time of all its arrival in England falls Short of what it 
is in Said books. The rest of my Estate, whether Money, Plate, Gold or 
Silver, Jewels, Goods, Household Furniture, wearing Apparel, Books, 
Debts, Lands, and whatsoever, both Real and Personal, I shall be pos- 
sessed of at my decease, I give unto my wife, Dame Mary Gayer, whom I 
make Sole Executrix of this, my last will and Testament. In witness 
Whereof I have hereunto set my hand and Seal in Bombay Castle, 5th of 
October, 1 7 10. John Gayer. 

In presence of us, where no stampt paper is procurable, &c., &c., &c,, 
William Aislabie, William Barnes, Abraham Barnot, Richard 
WiLMER, John Hill. 

A true copy from the original. 

Witnesses, John Eaton Dodsworth, James Osborne, William 
Gayer, Richard Bull. 


Will of William Gayer, Junr. 

9"" Nov., 1 712. 
/, William Gayer, Gentleman of y' Parish of Beckenham in Kent, be- 
ing sick, but of sound and disposing mind and memory, do make my last 
will. Payment of all debts. To my elder sister, Damaris Coffin, one- 
half part. To my younger sister, Dorcas Starbuck, y" other half of what 
belongs to me in New England. To my two sisters aforesaid, two thou- 
sand pounds sterling, that is, to each one thousand pounds. To my 
aunt, Jane Lee, of Plymouth, Aunt Elizabeth Matthews, Mr. Epiphamius 
Holland [each] ;^ioo. To Mr. George Musole, ^25. To Mrs. Martha 
Deacon, Mrs. Abigail Fitch [each] ^100. Remainder of my estate to 
my wife, Elizabeth Gayer, whom I 'appoint sole Executrix of this my last 
\Y\\\. William Gayer. 

In y* presence of ' • ^ 

Susanna Holland, William Norman, Andrew Stoddart. 




William Gayer, Esq., came to this country from Devonshire, Eng- 
land.* He married Dorcas Starbuck, daughter of Elder Edward Starbuck, 
by his wife, Katherine Reynolds, of Wales. He was an early settler of 
Nantucket ; probably had been a ship-carpenter ; was a farmer and a Jus- 
tice of the Peace. I find by the records in the office of our Secretary of 
State, that Captain John Gardner and Mr. William Gayer were representa- 
tives to the General Court from Nantucket on the 8th of June, 1692, being 
the first representatives from that island after its transfer from the Colony 
of New York to the Province of Massachusetts Bay. William Gayer, 
Esq., was one of five judges appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts, 
in 1704, to try an Indian of Nantucket, named Sabo, for the crime of 

He lived in a double house, one and a half stories in height, on Church 
Street, in Nantucket, occupied long since my first remembrance by descend- 
ants of his daughter, Damaris Cofiin. This house for a long time was con- 
sidered the oldest on the island, and I think was built in 1682, of solid oak 
timber, the growth of the island, and strengthened with oak knees, like a 
ship, and very firmly. It passed into the hands of strangers about 1839 ^^ 
1840, and was taken down to give place to a modern dwelling-house. A 
bureau with a sort of book-case or cupboard on top — which was made in 
Oliver Cromwell's time, and brought over by William Gayer, probably in 
Charles the Second's reign, belonged to my grandmother, a great-grand- 
daughter of William Gayer, Esq. It was made in part of English oak, col- 
ored a dark red, and ornamented with turned pieces of maple, painted 
black and nailed on ; and the top part, or cupboard, was in part supported 
by two maple urns, or short pillars, painted black. It was altogether an 
unique but useful piece of furniture. After the death of both of my grand- 
parents, it was placed in the cabinet of curiosities of the Nantucket Athe- 
neum, but was burned up in the great fire of 1846, when that building, with 

* N. £. Gen. and Hist Register, vol. xxxi., page 297. 


its fine collections of books, South Sea shells, war weapons, etc., was de- 

The following letter is from Jane Gayer, mother of William Gayer, Sr., 
from Plymouth, England, to her son, William Gayer, at Nantucket : 

" Son, my dearest love to you and your wife, and to my grandchildren, 
hoping that these few lines will find you in good health, as through mercy I 
enjoy at this present writing. I have sent you two letters by Mr. Blag, of 
New York, and I have sent several letters by other means, but I never re- 
ceived none from you since the i" of October, 1692, bearing this date. 
Dear son, I should request you that I might hear from you. Your brother 
Sir John sailed from the downs the last of May, was a 12 month gone, and 
all his family with him. A month after he went away he put in for the 
Madeira. I received a letter from him out of the Madeira's, since I have 
not heard from him, for there has not a ship come home from that place 
since. I did not know whether there was a New England man here or no 
before your uncle's land come to me to know how to direct a letter to you 
and that is concerning Cousin Jane Bray's business. I shall be like a fool to 
double my request to you that I might hear from you, and that I might 
know how lo direct my letters to you, for I do fear that they do not come 
to your hand. Your brother Hooper and his wife, and your sister Marcy, 
desired to be remembered to you and yours. Your uncles and aunt 
doth the same ; my kind respects to Cousin Jane Bray and her family ; not 
else at present but my prayers constantly to the Lord for you, & remain 
your loving mother, . Jane Gayer. 

From Plymouth, this ii June, 1694. 

These for Mr. William Gayer. 

Living on the Island of Nantucket, New England. 

Note. — I heard during the present month, February, 1877, from a 
lady, a descendant of William Gayer, Esq., that when her mother was 
very young, some seventy years ago probably, news came to Nantucket 
that a very large property in England had been left for descendants of the 
Gayer family. Thomas Starbuck of Nantucket was desirous his son Jo- 
seph, a very smart business man, should go to England to investigate the 
matter ; but he felt he could not spare the time it would require, so he, 
with his older brothers, Simeon and Levi, sent over an agent to Great Brit- 
ain, who returned and reported he had not carried out sufficient documents 
and there the case ended, as far as Nantucket interest was concerned. 

William C. Folger, ' 


{William Gayer, Sen., to his daughter Datnaris Coffin, wife of Capt. 

Nathaniel Coffin.) ■ 

Daughter Damaris, 

These may serve to inform you we are all well. When I wrote you your 
mother Coffin was designed to Boston by Land. I find I was mistaken. 
She tells me since her intent was only to the main. Christian is now at 
her grand ffather Coffins. Mr. Folger came home from Boston yesterday 
and informs me that John Sowters brother came from England lately, and 
says he spoke with your brother William G. in the East Indies Eighteen 
months since. If you have a convenient opportunity I wish you would 
speak with him and inquire what you can about William. I hope you will 
let me hear from you as often as you have opportunity for I take great 
Delight to hear of your welfare so with my love to yourself and Children 
with all other friends I remain your father 

William Gayer nantucket Septr : 9 : 1 709. 

Mr Nathaniel Coffin | in [ Charls Towne. 

In a letter from Thomas and James Hooper to William Gayer, Nan- 
tucket, dated " Stone house, near Plymouth, the 15th of February, 1699-70," 
they say, " Mother desires to be remembered unto all." His wife had been 
sick about six months. They had heard by his son William from their brother 
William, of Nantucket, nothing else important. 

{Mrs. Damaris Coffin, wife of Captain Nathaniel Coffin and daughter of 
William Gayer, Esq., of Nantucket, to her uncle, Sir John Gayer, then 
in the East Indies.) 

Boston, N. E. loth Jan y" 1711-12. 
Most Hon° Uncle 

Inclosed is a copy of what my husband wrote you in his last, advising 
you of the death of my hon'^ father y"' brother William Gayer & of the Dis- 
position we had made of our son William &c to which refer you. 

I have now before me the hon' of your kind letter of the 5*^ Jan'ry 
1709-10. Directed to my deceased father. 

The Good Character and Hopeful State of my brotlier with you is very 
reviving and the more Comfortable seeing you Express an Inclination to 
send him for Brittain, and in hopes you will soon follow him yourself. For 


which Blessing I daily Elevate my Prayers to my God, That he would 
Bless prosper and protect you both and send you to the height of your 
desires therein in health and safety. 

My son goes on hopefully with his book. I am in hopes that God will 
bless you and send you Safe to yo' native Country, and will prepare my 
boy to wait on you to your content and Satisfaction, whenever you please 
to put your Commands on him So to do. My Good Husband hath met 
with hard Fortune in his last voyage from Lisboa being taken and Carried 
into France, where he hath been a Prisoner a long time and was not re- 
leased in last but was in hopes to procure his Liberty in a short time 
and go for London from whence probably you may hear from him. He has 
been from home now for months and when he will be set free which is un- 
certain. God direct him and us for the best. I must conclude with my 
Duty to you & my true respects to my brother if with you & am most sin- 
cerely Hon'^ Uncle 

Your most afifec " 


{Sir Isaac Coffin to Jona Atnory of Boston.) 

Charleston, 12th May, 181 7. 
My Dear Cousin : 

Letters from England, received yesterday, oblige me to leave this coun- 
try much sooner than was expected, for 1 fully intended at least to pass 
a week with you, prior to my departure. Inclose to you the Secret of 
the accumulation in the American Funds and beg your kind attention as 
far as is convenient to my Magdalen Island concerns. 

The inclosed for Messrs. T. Belcher and Wright will explain to you 
what my intentions are, and the remittances you may expect from that 

It will be necessary you should by some careful person remit the cer- 
tificates of the stocks to me under cover to Messrs. Thos. Wm. Earles 
Co., Liverpool, taking the proper precaution by notarial copies or other- 
wise as you may judge best, and you may continue to draw on Messr. Thos. 
Coutts & Co., Strand, London, until the interest in the 7 and 6 yrs. Cents, 
amounts to three hundred sterling, adding to it any remittance you may 
receive from Messrs. Belcher and Wright, and the interests of the Stock 
already invested as it becomes payable, until further order. 

The loth of January and loth of July, one hundred and twenty-five 
pounds, are at each period, paid into my bankers' hands. The loth of 


April and loth of October, two hundred and fourteen pounds are received 
by them. Manage the time of drawing for these sums periodically, and that 
the bills may be presented with regularity. The half pay in advance quar- 
terly, may be drawn by you, as it becomes due. 

Bill the ist of July, ^167 ; October ist, ^167 ; ist January, ^,^167 ; 
ist April, ;^i67. I will on my arrival in England, immediately prepare my 
banker for this arrangement ; and now for the Secret, it is for a Charitable 
Institution, so as you are known to be one of the best of men, help me as 
well as you can. Thanks for your offer of credit, I shall have no occasion 
at present for it. 

Most truly do I lament this unforseen event has deprived me of the 
pleasure of seeing you, your family, and my friends. 

Remember me kindly to them all, my aunt and Dr. Dexter. 

By some kind master forward my baggage to Liverpool, that is in your 
custody and believe me 

Ever Affectionately yours, Isaac Coffin. 

{^To Commodore Hull). 

London, 5 May, 18 19. 
My Dear Sir : 

Long, very long, have I been expecting the huge Lobster you were so 
kind as to promise me. '* Better late than never." I send you a simple 
contrivance for to examine the when you have as 

many line of Battle Ships as we have its application may be useful. 

A Petition against my return to Parliament was presented to the House, 
and, in the event of my being thrown out, it was my intention to take a 
trip again across the Ocean and visit my friends at Boston ; but, by a 
Resolution of the Committee, I am reseated, my Opponent having 

I must, therefore, now defer my voyage to some more favoiable op- 
portunity. In any way that I can be useful to you here, I pray command 
me. Offer my best wishes to your spouse and all friends. 

Believing me very truly yours, 

Isaac Coffin. 

P. S. When you have the goodness to write me, send the letter via 
Liverpool, the lobster to the care of Col. Aspinwall. Address to the care 
of Messrs. Tho. and Wm. Early & Co., Liverpool. 

Admiral Coffin. 


London, 3rd June, 18 18. 
My Dear Sir : 

In looking over some old charts, I found one of Boston Harbour which, 
though of an ancient date, may still be correct. It shows the state of the 
Town, when the troops of Great Britain were shut up in it, and most of 
the surrounding Forts, Dorchester excepted, 

I beg your acceptance of it, and when placed in your office it will 
serve to remind you of one who holds you in high estimation. 

Offer to your spouse and her lovely sister my best wishes, and believe 
me always, yours very truly, 

Isaac Coffin. 

Capt. Hull, 

London, i6th April, 18 19. 
My Dear Sir : 

My reputation will sink to the lowest ebb, unless your efforts are 
crowned with success relating to the Lobster. Should you fail to cross the 
Ocean again, I long to try my luck by travelling in the Bay between Cape 
Cod and Cape Ann. I lament the situation I hold prevents me paying 
you a visit this Spring, as my Spirits were never better, and the Gout not 
within hail. 

Remember me kindly to your spouse and all my relations. 

Truly yours, 

Isaac Coffin. 
Captain Hull, Boston. 

London, May 20th, 18 19, 
My Dear Sir : 

Allow me to offer for your acceptance the Telegraph, 
With my new occupation little time is left me to look into a Signal 
Book. Besides, there is little chance of ever being employed again, and 
certainly none in fighting against that country that gave me birth. If at 
your leisure moments you can pick out anything that may be useful or 
ornamental, I shall be gratified. 

Should one of those huge lobsters be forthcoming, remember that you 
do not forget me. In looking over some papers the other day, I found 


some charts of old Massachusetts, which may one of these days find their 
way to you. 

Kind remembrances to all friends. 

Always Yours Truly, 

Captain I. Hull. 

Isaac Coffin. 

London, 13th July, 18 19. 
My Dear Sir : 

The lobster you committed to the care of Captain Tracy arrived in 
good condition. It is considered a marvellous one here. Still, my friend, 
Sir Joseph Banks, longs for one of ninety pounds, which your letter speaks 
of, so that you must be on the lookout still for me ; and should you be 
successful in procuring another of uncommon size, you must have the 
goodness to forward it, taking care first to boil it in strong pickle or brine ; 
then it wiU become dry in the interior very soon, and bear being moved 
about with greater facility. I have been offered by some showmen a 
large sum, but I decline parting with him, intending it for a Lady's 
Museum. A Hodge-Podge, as you will perceive in the Signal line, was 
months since deposited with Col. Aspinvvall ; but no opportunity has 
offered of sending it before Captain Tracy's arrival. I am too old to pry 
into modern curiosities, never meaning to serve again against friend or foe, 
but do as much good as I can for the rising generation, who may, when I 
am under ground, fight it out in any way most convenient to the parties. 
I have this winter fired a shot now and then, avoiding close action, as 
I soon observed, like our Dr. Sewell's Meeting-House in Summer, many 
members fast asleep during long and tedious harangues, in the House of 
Commons. I thought at first the sound of my own voice would have 
alarmed me before such an audience. Having had occasion often to ad- 
dress my ship's company gave a facility at first setting off, so that when 
blowing hard I did not broach to or get becalmed while delivering my 
sentiments to the House. Nothing will give me more pleasure than once 
more meeting my old friends at Boston, a town I shall ever regard as long 
as my heart is left to beat. 

Kind remembrances to your spouse, Nat Amory, and all the other 
worthies. Believe me always 

Very Faithfully Yours, 

Isaac Coffin. 
Capt. I. Hull. 


London, 26 Jan., 18 19. 
My Dear Sir : 

There is an old sea song I used to sing when creeping in Boston Bay 
during the Revolutionary War, in the months of January and February, 
" What cannot be cured must be endured." 

Many thanks for kind exertions. Send the Lobster when you can. 
My reputation will be saved, though my money is gone ; consign it to the 
care of your Consul to whom I have written on the subject, and remember 
in return if you do not command my services in a way that I can be useful 
to you it will be your own fault. Any intelligence you can afford me will 
be most interesting, especially on nautical or agricultural subjects. I have 
taken my seat in the House of Commons, and may one of these days be 
instigated to speak, but at present play the part of " Orator Mum." 
Remember me kindly to your spouse, Nat Amory, and all friends in 
Boston, believing me always, my dear Captain, 

Very truly yours, 

Isaac Coffin. 

Captain Isaac Hull, Naval Commissioner, Boston. 

{^To General Dearborn.) 

Leinington Spa, 23d July, 1827. 
My Dear Sir : 

Please to accept my thanks for your kind recollection of my wishes. 
The Terrapin you had the goodness to send me is in the safe custody of my 
friend William Earle at Liverpool. As many more as you can pick up in 
your garden, except the small speckled ones and snappers, will be accept- 
able. The latter are such determined deserters that no bounty or kind 
treatment will keep them loyal. In early life I have seen a large sort with 
a rough bark resembling those brought by your whalers from the Gallipagos 
Islands. I beg you to present my kind regards to all my Boston friends. 
Sink or swim I never can forget the place of my nativity or cease to wish 
prosperity to it. 

Ever my dear Sir truly yours, 

Isaac Coffin. 
General Dearborn. 


{^General John Coffin, to Stephen De Blois, of Boston.) 

St. John's, N. B., Feb. 10, 1830. 
My Dear Stephen : 

You are now from various unforeseen and melancholy changes that have 
taken place in your circle of very dear friends, left as almost the sole sur- 
vivor. Time and chance sets all adrift. I truly condole with you and 
them in the loss of so many excellent and worthy characters. Boston will 
never be to me what it has been — not that my affections has in any degree 
abated for those remaining. Such however being the will of Providence, 
we must submit with becoming patience and fortitude, looking forward to 
the time when it will be our turn to follow. I am passing the winter in 
this frozen region, and what with good friends and good cheer, I am, 
thank Providence, enabled to carry a weather helm, and maintain a toler- 
able share of health. I hope this may find you and Mrs. Deblois and 
family enjoying health and comfort, and that all my friends and relations 
are doing the same. I hardly dare ask for our old and respectable friends, 
Dr. and Mrs. Dexter ; to them and my friend Tom and wife with their 
branches, remember me in the kindest terms ; also to Mr. and Mrs. Davis, 
Mrs. Smith, and good little Maynard. 

Does Mrs. T. C. Amory continue to be your neighbor ? To her and 
charming family, with Mrs. Jona and their family, my kind love and affec- 

There is also Mr. John Amory, the worthy Doctors of Old Trinity, 
Gardiner Greene, with many others that I love in my heart, and it gives 
me pleasure to name them, and let them know that I do not forget them, 
and the comfort and gratification I have enjoyed in a long and early ac- 
quaintance and friendship. I am fond of this plain old fashioned way of 
keeping alive those cheering recollections of the past happy days, and the 
absent. I am with them as far as the most kindly feelings towards them 
can be allowed to exist. Have you any late accounts from our worthy 
cousin Nat and wife, Capt. and Mrs. Derby, friends and associates rare to 
be met with in this or any other hemisphere. Are they allowed to hold 
their appointments under your new President, whose vacillating conduct 
has, I understand, changed the position of many in politics. I never 
meddle with but I must say this much, I do not envy your constitution and 

Aside and between ourselves, what has induced Sir Isaac to desert the 
country that has conferred on him the rank and consequence he now en- 



joys ? Were the American people any way behind those of Great Britain 
in nautical tactics, he might gain some applause. But I am sure every 
well thinking man with you must condemn him for deserting the country 
that has conferred on him even more than he had any right to expect or 
look for. I am afraid his fair fame and character will be much clouded 
on the other side of the water from which he will never recover. I should 
not be surprised to hear his Majesty had struck his name out of the list of 
Admirals. The injury will unfortunately extend to every branch of his 
family connected with the service in which we are all engaged. I cannot 
but say I am deeply wounded at this not to say more inconsiderate con- 
duct. He must have taken leave of his senses. It is, however, too painful 
a subject to dwell on, and I shall conclude my dear cousin, with the kind- 
est regards to all the De Blois, and remain your very attached, 

John Coffin, 

June, 1719. 
Dear Coz : 

Yours I received, with the half crown, and am sorry you should have 
troubled yourself about so small a matter ; that or any command should 
have been observed without such punctualities. I ask a thousand pardons 
for my long silence ; my lady Duchess having been for some time indis- 
posed that I could not gain this opportunity sooner. I have taken the 
following accompts, from the worthies of Devonshire, out of our office ; 
and, for those of Hants, they shew the exact arms of the seal of my 
formers, which was my father's, given by him to one Mr. James Coffin, of 
Christ Church, Hants, in whose possession it is. I observe those of Hants 
spell with the letter (y), those of Devonshire, as you see. My shortness of 
time will not allow of any regard to stops, and scarcely orthography, so 
beg your excuse for all faults, as well as a line just to satisfy me of your 
receipt of this. This day, se'nnight, or to-morrow, his Grace intends for 
Nottingham, Lancashire, and York ; so that if you have any commands 
to communicate, I shall be proud to bear them ; and am with all respect 
(my mother and sister's services attending you). 

Madam, Your most humble servant, 

Richard Coffyn. 

For Mrs. Mary Coffin, at Ramsdon Heath, in Essex. 

[arms.] Flor., A.D. 1533. 

R. R. Hen. 8. 


These letters afford some partial glimpse of the writers, and the times 
in which they lived. They are presented in connection with the memoirs of 
Sir Isaac, that his kinsfolk or collectors of autographs who possess any letters 
of his own, or which may shed light on his career, may be disposed to send 
the originals or copies to some central and accessible repository, where 
they can be kept together for the benefit of other generations. The fire- 
proof vaults of the New England Genealogical and Historical Society, 18 
Somerset Street, in Boston, where he was born, are suggested as a fitting 




The letter to his cousin, p. 88, shows that Sir Isaac had determined to es- 
tabhsh in Massachusetts a system of nautical schools — one for Boston, one 
for Newburyport, and another later at Nantucket. Having had occasion to 
learn, when in our city council and on our school board, how very general 
an impression then existed of the importance of thus building up our com- 
mercial marine, it seemed due to the memory of Sir Isaac to comprise in 
this memoir the sketch of what he intended his schools should be. Mr. 
Folger, who possesses what seems a copy of the original draught of a will 
of his, in which he had himself set forth his plan, permits me to use it. 
The admiral, from his own experience as a midshipman and forty years in 
service, more or less active in the navy, had an experience which gives 
value to his ideas of nautical education. 

The Clio was bought, equipped, and used some years, and no doubt edu- 
cated many excellent seamen. His kinsman, Hector, of the Newburyport 
branch of the Coffins, was in many ways well fitted to take charge. It 
will be seen that ten years after the inception of the plan, the Clio was still 
employed in the task. It involved more cost than was contemplated, and 
was given up about the time Sir Isaac founded the Coffin school at Nan- 
tucket, which, with means largely accumulated, is in a full career of useful- 
ness, though somewhat modified in its methods and scope from what the 
founder contemplated. 

The plan for the nautical schools is thus set forth in the will, revoked, 
if it still existed, when he made his last will the year that he died. 

This is the Last Will and Testament of me, Sir Isaac Coffin, 
Baronet, an Admiral in the service of his Majesty George the Fourth, 
King of the United Kingdom of Great Britian and Ireland. 

I direct all my just debts and funeral expenses, and the costs and charges 
of proving this my will, to be paid. And holding in grateful remembrance 
the manifold blessings I have derived from the principles instilled into me 
while at Boston, in the State of Massachusetts, the place of my nativity, 
and feeling that the success I have experienced in this life is mainly to be 


attributed to the excellent education I received at that place, and wishing ' 
that none of my relations, being lineal descendants of Tristram Coffin, who 
settled in the township of Salsbury, near Newbury Port, in the said State of 
Massachusetts, in or about the year one thousand six hundred and forty- 
two, and of Peter Coffin, his brother,* and bearing or taking the name of 
Coffin, may ever want the means of obtaining those advantages so bounti- 
fully bestowed on me, I give and bequeath all the personal property of 
which I may be possessed, or to which I may be entitled at my death, in 
possession, revision, or expectantly, to my executors hereinafter named, in 
trust, to transfer the same to seven trustees, to be appointed as hereinafter 
provided, for the establishment of three schools for naval education, one at 
said Boston, one at Nantucket, in the State of Massachusetts, and one at 
said Newbury Port. And for the purpose of maintaining and perpetuating 
such establishments according to this, my last will, I do appoint five vis- 
itors or overseers of the said trust ; that is to say : whoever shall be, for the 
time being, successively the governor of the said State of Massachusetts, 
the president of Harvard University at Cambridge in the said State, and 
the Mayor of the said city of Boston, with two others to be chosen by the 
said three ; and the said visitors shall have the power to fill all vacancies 
that shall occur in their own body, whether by death or resignation of any 
visitor that may be chosen as aforesaid, or from the discontmuance or 
other change of either of the said three officers. 

Item : I do authorise and request the said visitors, as soon as may be 
after my decease, to nominate and appoint seven discreet and faithful per- 
sons to be Trustees for the establishment of the said three schools ; and if 
they shall not make such appointment within one year after this my will 
shall have been duely proved and allowed, then I authorise and request 
my Executors to appoint the said seven Trustees, and the said Trustees, 
when appointed in either of the modes above mentioned, shall forever 
thereafter fill all vacancies in their own body, their election in each case 
to be submitted without delay to the said visitors for their approbation, 
and to be void if disaproved by the visitors ; and if the Trustees shall refuse 
or neglect to fill any such vacancy for the space of three months after the 
same shall occur, and for the same length of time after being notified of 
the vacancy by the visitors and being requested by them to proceed to a 
choice, then the said visitors are authorised and requested forthwith to fill 
such vacancy by the appointment of a Trustee. And I do further author- 
ise the said visitors, from time to time, to remove any of the said Trustees 

* His son. 



who shall in the opinion of the visitors become incapable or unfit by 
reason of age, infirmity, or any other cause to discharge the duties of his 


Item : I do order and request my Executors hereinafter named, as soon 
as may be after my decease, to pay over, deliver, assign, and transfer to 
the said Trustees all my said personal estate herein above bequeathed to 
the said Trustees, to be held by them upon the trusts and for the purposes 
following ; that is to say : all that part of my said estate which may at the 
time of my decease be invested in the British funds to be kept to accumu- 
late by investing the interest from the time in the like stock, and adding 
it to the principal, for sixty years after my decease, if the rules of law or 
equity will allow it ; otherwise, for any less time than sixty years that shall 
be allowable ; and if from any cause it should become impracticable or 
greatly disadvantageous to the said establishment to keep the last-men- 
tioned part of my estate invested as aforesaid in the British funds, then 
I authorise the said Trustees, with the consent and approbation of the said 
visitors, to withdraw the whole of said monies from the British funds, and 
invest the same in other stocks or funds, or in real estate, or put the same 
out at interest to be accumulated as aforesaid, as they shall think best for 
the establishment ; and in either case, when the said fund shall cease to 
be accumulated as aforesaid, whether by force of the above-written limita- 
tion or of the rules of law, it shall be appropriated, together with the other 
property herein bequeathed to the said Trustees, to the maintenance of the 
said schools, as hereinafter provided ; and as to the residue of my said 
estate, bequeathed as aforesaid (as also the part thereof last above men- 
tioned, when the said trust for accumulation shall cease), the said Trustees 
shall from time to time invest the same in any stocks or funds, or in real 
estate, or put the same out at interest, as shall be warranted and allowed 
by law, and shall appear to be secure and most for the advantage of the 
said establishment ; and if it shall hereafter appear to the said Visitors and 
Trustees that the property herein given to the said Trustees can be better 
managed and secured, and the purposes of this my will be better attained, 
by an incorporation of the said Trustees and Visitors, or either of them, I 
do hereby, so far as in me lies, assent to such incorporation, and do request 
that the same may be granted accordingly by the competent authority of 
the said State of Massachusetts on the application of the said Visitors and 
Trustees. And the said Trustees shall have the care and immediate over- 
sio-ht of the said schools, and may make all necessary and proper rules and 
ret^ulations for the discipline and instruction and the general government 
thereof, provided they be not inconsistent with the regulations in that be- 


half contained in this my will, and all such rules and regulations shall be 
in full force and operation until repealed by the said Visitors. 

Item : I will and direct that each of such schools shall be on the follow- 
ing plan and Foundation, viz.: Each to be called "Sir Isaac Coffin's School." 
One of such schools, being the school to be first established, to be at Bos- 
ton, in such a situation that the scholars may be near the water-side and 
have ready access to the Harbour, The school to consist of twenty-four 
scholars; twelve of them, if so many may be found, are to be the male de- 
scendants, deriving their descent through males of the said Tristram Coffin, 
and of said Peter Coffin, respectively, or one of them, and to bear, or before 
entrance into the school, to take and assume the name of Coffin, If male 
relations, deriving their pedigree through males, should not be found, then 
descendants by the female line may be chosen, and they to assume and 
bear and write the name of Coffin before they enter into the school. And 
I direct that such twelve scholars of each school shall be fed, clothed, and 
lodged out of the income of the funds of the establishment. And I direct 
that three masters be appointed for each school, viz. : a Master of a Ship, 
a Mathematical Master, and a Drawing Master, each to be of good Morals 
and reputation and well qualified for his department. Such three persons 
will, in my humble judgment, be sufficient to prepare the boys for the pro- 
fession they are designed to follow. And I direct that the remaining 
twelve boys of the school at Boston shall be selected from the sons of hon- 
est and industrious inhabitants of Boston who may be desirous of breeding 
up their sons for a nautical life. And it is further my will that the sons of 
the poorest citizens shall be preferred, and that no boy shall be eligible 
who shall have any bodily deformity, or who shall not be of a sound con- 
stitution, or who shall not have had the small-pox, or have been vaccinated. 
It is further my will that no boy shall be admitted until he shall have at- 
tained the age of fourteen years, and that each boy should be able to read, 
and also to write a legible hand, and have a competant knowledge of Arith- 
metic, and be of Christian persuasion, and if a classical scholar, he is on 
that account to be entitled caeteris paribus to preference. Each boy shall 
leave the school at the age of eighteen. And I direct that the Ship Master, 
Mathematical Master, and Drawing Master should respectively be native 
citizens of Massachusetts. 

Item .-As my said property may not be sufficient to found the three 
schools to commence at the same time, I direct the school at Boston to be 
first established, and as the funds accumulate, to form the second of such 
establishments at Newbury Port. And, as future funds accumulate, to 
form the third and last of such establishments at Nantucket. And I direct 


that each of such schools shall be conducted on similar plans, and each 
school to be limited to the number of twenty-four boys, and all the boys 
beyond the twelve of the Coffin family to be chosen by the Trustees out 
of the respective Towns in which such schools are to be established ; and 
on failure of that number, then to be selected from any other part of the 
State of Massachusetts. But this shall not prevent the Trustees from ad- 
mitting'- additional scholars on payment of such sums for their tuition as 
the Trustees shall prescribe, when it can be done without injury to the 
establishment. And, whereas the branches of the family of the said Tristram 
Coffin and Peter Coffin are spread over the Continent of North America 
and Europe, and are my relations, I direct that any of them, and of what- 
ever country they may be natives, shall forever be eligible to be placed 
in each of the said schools, the number of twelve such relations being 
always entitled to the preference to be scholars on each of such founda- 
tions when of a proper age, and if such relations can be traced ; and the 
said Trustees shall have the exclusive right and power of certifying the 
fact of descent and right of eligibility. And I direct that for the admission 
of each boy, an application shall be made to the said Trustees three calen- 
dar months before he can be admitted upon any vacancy ; and that the 
day of admission shall be the sixteenth of May in every year (being the 
anniversary of my birthday). And I direct that no candidate shall be 
admitted unless a physician and surgeon, to be appointed by the said Trus- 
tee? shall certify to them, after due examination, that such candidate is, 
as to bodily health, fit for the life of a Sailor. And I direct that, as between 
different applicants for admission, the said Trustees, or the major part of them, 
shall have the selection and choice, and that proximity of blood among per- 
sons of the sirname, or being descendants from the said Tristram Coffin and 
Peter Coffin, respectively, shall not confer any right of preference. And 
I direct that, adjacent to each school, a house should, if it be deemed 
expedient, be obtained by purchase or hiring on lease, and furnished for 
the residence of the Ship-Master of each school. And I direct that the 
Ship-Master for each School shall have the direction, care, and superinten- 
dence of the said boys on that foundation to which he shall be attached, 
and of their board and lodging, and his board and lodging gratis in the 
same house. And I direct that his accounts of expenditure for board 
and lodging shall be submitted to the annual inspection of the Trustees ; 
and that the Trustees (should there be occasion) may, with the assent 
of the Visitors, remove any of the said Masters for misconduct or want 
of qualification. 

Item : For promoting the welfare of the said establishment, I direct 


that for each of the said schools a sloop of fifty tons, coppered and copper 
fastened, shall be built or provided at the expense of the establishment, 
combining strength, convenience, fast sailing, and durability, and furnished 
with bed-places and all requisite conveniences for the scholars ; and that the 
scholars of the Boston foundation shall be exercised in cruising in Massa- 
chusetts Bay and the neighboring coast, from the tenth day of May to the 
tenth day of September in each year, by which means they will become 
excellent pilots ; and they are to be put into and survey all the harbors from 
Passamaquoddy to Nantucket, and to trawl and drudge on every part of 
the coast, and on all occasions, to try to discover the treasures of the deep ; 
and to keep an accurate journal of their proceedings, and use their fishing- 
lines, of every kind, when opportunity may oiifer ; and, by keeping the body 
and mind inconstant activity, they will prepare themselves for the arduous 
career incident to the life of a seaman ; and they are not to lose any op- 
portunity of making astronomical and nautical observations. The sloop 
to be caulked and kept in repair and sails, rigging, and hull, by the personal 
labor of the masters and scholars, and to be called '* The Seaman's Hope," 
carrying a white flag with a pine-tree in the centre. And I direct that the 
boys, in the two first classes of each establishment, shall be exercised two 
years in the sloop of such establishment prior to leaving school. And I 
direct that the sloop belonging to the Newbury Port School shall cruise 
from Cape Cod, round Boston Bay to Passamaquoddy, and that the sloop 
belonging to the Nantucket School shall cruise from Cape Cod one way, 
to New York the other way, trawling and drudging assiduously as the 
ground will admit, since I conceive many oyster-beds may be dis- 
covered in Long Island Sound, and between Montauck Point and Sandy 
Hook. And it is my further direction that the boys of each school shall, 
from their entry to their departure, wear a blue jacket and trousers of good 
cloth of the second or third quality, with blue knit stockings of worsted in 
winter, and cotton in summer, and shall have an anchor on the right arm, 
of red cloth, by which they may always be known and distinguisljed. And 
as the vessel may go into the Bay in severe weather, I direct that a com- 
petent number of greatcoats be provided, lined with baize made up of No. 
4 canvas and painted, and also foraging leather caps to cover their heads, 
and with a small anchor in front of each cap. Also, that the boat be 
provided and hoisted up at any wharf in the vicinity of each school at 
which permission may be obtained, and i^owing twelve oars double-banked, 
and having cork apparatus sufficient to float her when overset ; and in that 
boat the two junior classes of each school shall be exercised from the tenth 
day of May to the tenth day of September in each year, thus combining 


exertion with pleasure. And I direct that each of the scholars shall learn 
to swim, and each acquire a knowledge of the following trades or callings — 
that is to say : Ship-building, caulking, rope-making, block-making, mast- 
making, boat-building, coopering, house-carpenter's and joiner's work, 
baking, blacksmith's work, cutting and making clothes, knitting, making 
nets of all kinds, mixing paints and painting, the art of cooking in all its 
branches, the art of slaughtering animals with due economy, also of pre- 
serving meat by pickling, salting, or smoking, I also direct that muskets 
be provided and kept up, to belong to each school, that the boys of the 
first class may be exercised by the Ship-Master, at such time as he may 
think most convenient, in firing at a mark, and such guns always to be 
cleaned and put by by the scholars of the said class. And I direct that 
the scholars be taught the use of the backsword, the art of gunnery, and fire- 
lock exercise, and be at liberty to amuse themselves at proper times with 
athletic games, such as cricket, foot-ball, wrestling, at the discretion of the 
Ship-Master and Mathematical Master, one of whom is always to be in at- 
tendance on the scholars as their charge. And I will and direct that each 
boy shall be at his studies at five o'clock in the morning in the summer, 
and at six o'clock in the morning in the winter. The scholars to be at 
breakfast at seven o'clock in the summer, and at eight o'clock in the 
winter ; and winter is to be reckoned to commence from the first day of 
November and to end on the thirtieth day of April. The boys to dine at 
one o'clock in the summer, and to be allowed one hour and a half for the 
interval between school ; to dine in winter at one o'clock, and to be 
allowed one hour between school, and to have two half-holidays in each 
week, commencing from one o'clock ; the boys on the foundation who 
shall not have any relations in town, to be regulated as to their absence by 
the Ship-Master ; and all the boys to sup in winter and summer at eight 
o'clock and be in bed by nine. Their food to consist of rice, Indian meal, 
and bread, with milk and molasses or sugar, for breakfast ; mutton, beef, 
pork, and fish, with potatoes and other vegetables and soups, according to 
the judgment of the Ship-Master, for dinner, and in such proportions as may 
be equal to the several wants of the boys, avoiding waste and profusion. 
The boys to have for supper the same kind of food as for breakfast. 

Item : I will and direct that the said Trustees shall visit and examine 
the said school in Boston at least four times a year, and oftener if they 
think proper ; and I do request that the said Visitors join in such examina- 
tion at least once a year ; and I further authorize and request the said Vis- 
itors to depute and appoint the respective School Committees, or Select- 
men, for the time being, of the said towns of Nantucket and Newbury 


Port, or such other persons as the Visitors shall nominate, to make a like 
visitation and examination of the schools in those towns respectively, and 
to report their observations to the said Visitors, in order that all defects in 
the course of discipline and instruction in the said three schools may be 
discovered and corrected, and that such improvements may be made 
therein, by the said Trustees and Visitors, as they shall judge proper, and 
not inconsistent with the general object and plan of the schools as expressed 
in this my Will. And in case of the misconduct of any scholar which can- 
not be sufficiently punished or repressed by the ordinary disci[)line of the 
school, the Trustees may, on complaint by the Mathematical Master or 
Ship-Master, inquire into the same, and, if they think proper, admonish the 
scholar; and on a second complaint, they may sentence him to a short soli- 
tary confinement ; and if this should prove inefficient, such boy may be ex- 
pelled ; or any boy may be expelled in the first instance for any aggravated 
offence that shows him to be wholly unworthy of enjoying the benefits of 
the school ; and no boy once expelled shall ever be reinstated. 

Item : As the Lancasterian or Bell system of education has, in most 
countries, been found very beneficial, I should wish the schools to be regu- 
lated as nearly as possible on that plan, or any improvement thereon. And 
I direct that in each school there may be four classes, and the boy most 
conspicuous for talents and proficiency in each class to be placed at the 
head of that class as a monitor. Each boy of the senior to have a boy of 
the second class to instruct, and each boy of the second class to have one 
of the boys of the third class to instruct, and each boy of the third class to 
have a boy of the fourth class to instruct. By these regulations knowledge 
will be rapidly diftused, and the education of the young men sooner com- 
pleted. I wish the boys to be in every respect as well qualified in mathe- 
matical and astronomical knowledge as the scholars at the Naval College 
at Portsmouth, in England, are qualified, and to complete the like plan as is 
observed in that academy. And I will and direct that each Mathematical 
Master, in addition to his other qualifications, should be competent to give 
lectures on the several heads of natural philosophy, namely, pneumatics, 
hydraulics, optics, mechanics, electricity, astronomy, geology, geography 
with the use of the globes ; and that a philosophical apparatus should be 
provided at the expense of each establishment. And 1 direct that each 
school should be provided with Ree's Encyclopaedia, printed and published 
in America, and a competent number of books which treat or may treat on 
professional matters. I direct also that models of a ship, brig, snow- 
schooner, and sloop be provided in each school, and that the boys may be 
practised in rigging and unrigging the same during the winter. And I 


recommend that shops be built near the school wherein the different trades 
enumerated for the boys to learn may be taught. I also direct that Arrow- 
smith's Mercator's chart of the world, and spherical chart, together with 
maps of the four quarters of the globe, should be hung up on springs in each 
school, so that ready access can be had to the maps ; and that a pair of 
globes should be provided for each school. And I direct that, when either 
of the said schools should be complete, and the boys of the senior class 
be about to leave it, an examination should take place touching their 
abilities, when all the Selectmen and Magistrates, Captains and Officers of 
the United States Navy residing at Boston, Newbury Port, or Nantucket, 
and respectable Masters of ships should, by public advertisement, be invited 
to attend. And after such examination I direct that each boy, on leaving 
the school, should, if merited, have a mark of approbation, i.e., the first 
boy a silver medal, and I direct that the silver medal shall have engraved 
on one side a ship completely rigged with a motto, " I aspire to com- 
mand," and on the other side " God is my Guide," with a wreath of laurel 
and a sextant ; the second boy a sextant ; the third boy a quadrant ; the 
fourth boy a case of mathematical instruments ; the fifth boy a treatise on 
Navigation ; the sixth boy the book called " A Coasting Pilot," or the best 
substitute for it ; and if there be any more, the seventh boy a fishing-line 
of sixty fathoms with lead and six cod-hooks ; the eighth boy a chest for his 
clothes ; the ninth boy a Gunter's scale and a pair of compasses, and each 
of the others a jack knife ; each boy also to have a Bible, and a certificate, 
signed by the Ship-Master and the Mathematical Master, that he was edu- 
cated at Sir Isaac Coffin's School. And I direct that a proper book be 
kept by each Ship-Master by way of registry of the names of all the scholars, 
stating their ages and their respective proficiency in the sciences taught at 
each school ; such book, together with the plans and drawings of the boys 
who may excel, to be preserved in the library of the school. And it is my 
direction that the Ship-Master of each school shall be thirty years of age 
before he shall be qualified to conduct the affairs of the establishment, and 
shall not be eligible after the age of forty-five years ; and that he may, if he 
think fit, or be required by the Trustees to, retire at any time after the age 
of sixty, with an annuity for his life of fifty pounds sterling per annum. And 
that the Mathematical Master shall not be admitted after the age of thirty 
years, and may retire at any time after sixty years, if he should so desire, or 
be required as aforesaid, with an annuity of fifty pounds for his life. The 
Drawing-Master to be admitted at any age between twenty-one and forty- 
five years, and may retire at any time after sixty, if he should so desire or 
be so required, with an annuity for his life of forty pounds per annum. 


Item : Having suggested, so far as my experience enables me, the requi- 
sites for forming a set of men who may be useful to my native country, 
my consideration has been to provide the funds for establishing the said 
Foundation. I have at present, standing in the names of the Trustees of 
my marriage settlement, which, after the death of my wife, will be part of 
my property, about seven hundred pounds a year in the English Funds, 
and in my own name six hundred pounds a year in the Funds of the United. 
States, and money and stock in the French Funds, which sums may be 
more or less, and I may considerably increase them in my lifetime. Should 
the income of the funds be adequate after what is above disposed of, I di- 
rect that sums not exceeding fifty pounds per annum should be given to 
each of twelve aged and infirm Masters of Merchant Ships, who may be 
worn out and unable to support themselves, at Boston, Nantucket, or New- 
bury Port, giving the preference to the descendants of Tristram Coffin and 
Peter Coffin in the male or female lines. And should there be any surplus 
fund after supporting and maintaining the aforesaid three establishments, 
and after paying the said annuities to the said twelve aged and infirm Mas- 
ters of ships, I direct that such surplus be given, by way of annual income, 
for the maintenance of the aged and infirm branches, members for the 
time being of the Coffin family from the said two stocks, in such a way 
and proportion as the said Trustees may adjudge. 

I/em : I revoke all other wills made by me at any time heretofore. And 
I nominate, constitute, and appoint Jonathan Amory and Henry Codman, 
both of said Boston, Esquires, William Appleton, Jonathan Amory, Jun., 
Thomas Coffin Amory, Edward Gardiner Davis, M.D., George Minot Dex- 
ter, William Davis Sohier, Edward William Payne, and Thomas Amory De- 
blois, all of said Boston, Esquires, to be Executors of this my Will and 
Testament, and desire that all their expenses may be borne and paid out 
of my estate. 

In Witness Whereof I have, to this my last Will and Testament, con- 
tained in eight sheets of paper, set my hand and seal (that is to say), my 
hand only to the first seven sheets, and my hand and seal to this the eighth 
and last sheet, this fourth day of September, in the year of the reign 

of George the fourth, and in the year of our Lord one thousand. 

Signed, sealed, published, and declared by the said Testator as and for 
his last Will and Testament, in the presence of us, who at his request and 
in his presence, and also in the presence of each other, have hereunto sub- 
scribed our names as witnesses. 


Boston, i6th Sept., 1S29. 
My Dear Sir : 

No event of my life has ever afforded me more pleasure than my late 
visit to Nantucket — and as you have, from the commencement of my efforts 
to form the establishment for our young relations, mainly contributed 
thereto, I beg once more to offer you my best thanks. 

But ior jou, piobably, we should never have witnessed the affecting and 
gratifying exhibition of the children at the seminary. 

You will hear I have taken much interest in the equipment of the Brig, 
giving the boys plenty of pumpkins, squashes, apples, and good advice. 
They go to their work v/ith Si /leariy good wi//. I pray God they may make 
good men. They clear out this day, and sail to-morrow. Little or no gout 
since we parted. I start for New York to-morrow. Early, in November 
go to Norfolk, thence to South Carolina. Kind regards to your family, 
the Trustees, your son, and the children, and al/ relations. 

Ever sincerely yours, 
Wm. Coffin, Esq. (Signed) Isaac Coffin. 

The nautical schools involving too large an expenditure, and having, as 
his brother John writes his cousin Stephen Deblois, provoked criticism at 
home. Sir Isaac directed his attention to establishing a school at Nantucket. 
This still exists, well endowed. Its pupils, once two or three hundred, are 
not now confined to the descendants of Tristram. It is said of this school that 
it cost Sir Isaac an earldom, but the remark applies with more likelihood 
to the nautical schools for the education of seamen. The following letter 
to the trustees of the Nantucket school from Mr. Folger, who sends me 
the above intended will, is appended, with his consent. 

Cambridgeport, June 30, 1881. 

Charles G. Coffin, Esq., President Board of Trustees, 
Admiral Sir Isaac Coin's Sclwol, Nantucket : 

My Dear and Honored Friend — Some few years ago, in looking 
over old records in the " Town's Building," so called, at Nantucket, I came 
across a candle-box about half filled with loose papers. On examination 
I found among them several original letters and memorandum-books con- 


nected with the establishment of the Coffin School. By permission I took 
them for the purpose of making copies tending to their preservation. I 
infer that they were saved when all the other records of the School were 
destroyed by the fire of 1846, conveyed from the counting-room of the 
Secretary, Gorham Coffin, Esq., to his residence, and at his death carried 
over to the Town's Building. But this, being my own explanation, 
may not be the correct one. The papers consist of two books of ac- 
counts, showing the purchase and fitting the School House on Fair- 
Street, and the general expenditures from September, 1826, to May, 
1835 ; four memorandum books containing the names of scholars, male 
and female, commencing with the first quarter of the second year, June, 
1828, and continuing to March, 1834, and sundry documents numbered 
by the Secretary, Gorham Coffin, Esq., i to 81 — of which 22 were miss- 
ing — and there are 9 not numbered. They consist of original letters 
from Admiral Coffin and his relative, Hector Coffin, to William Coffin, 
President of the Board of Trustees ; copies of letters to the Admiral, and 
copies of papers connected with the gift by Union Lodge of F. & A. 
Masons, under certain conditions, of their Lodge Building standing on 
Main street. These documents I have carefully copied into a record book, 
and, in connection therewith, other information connected with the estab- 
lishment of the school, showing some of the influences leading thereto, to- 
gether with such biographical notices of Admiral Coffin as have come under 
my observation. It appears that on the loth of September, 1826, Admiral 
Coffin visited Nantucket a second time, after an interval of about twenty 
years. He found the inhabitants very much exercised in relation to the 
establishment of public schools. The only schools of this nature then ex- 
isting were charity schools, supported by the Town from an appropriation 
of $1,500 per year, with an expenditure of about $800 in a population of 
some 8,000 persons. The School Committee of 1825 had reported " that 
they had not recommended a large sum of money, because it is presumed 
that no individual who is competent to support the education of his chil- 
dren, will at this period of embarrassment be induced to place them under 
the direction and control of the School Committee." 

The names of those participating in the appropriation were required to 
be published by the Committee. At the March Town Meeting, 1826, the 
School Committee reported, " that immediately after their appointment 
they gave public notice that they would be in session to receive applica- 
tions for admission into the public schools. They sat several evenings for 
the purpose, and until applications had ceased. Having ascertained by 
this course the number of children for which they had to provide schools. 


they proceeded to institute schools, and locate them in different parts of 
the town for the accommodation of the inhabitants ; one under the direction 
of a master, and four under the direction of mistresses. These schools 
have embraced, on an average, about i8o scholars. Besides these five 
schools, provision has been made for a few scholars in four private schools, 
in such a manner that it has been advantageous to the scholars themselves, 
and economical to the town. The Committee have frequently visited the 
schools in order to take cognizance of any existing difficulty, as well as to 
ascertain the advancement of the schools in their several studies, and to 
this end have examined every individual scholar. The condition of very 
many of the scholars," say the committee, " was indeed deplorable at the 
time they were received, and although their advancement has generally 
equalled the most sanguine expectations of your committee, yet very much 
remains for the town to do, that the education, which, in many instances, 
received its beginning the present year, may be continued, till an object 
fraught with the most beneficial effects shall be fully accomplished. One 
of the above female schools is composed of colored children, whose ad- 
vancement in education has afforded satisfaction to the Committee, when 
they have visited the schools. They have expended $845.94, and have 
drawn $650, and there is due to the treasurer $194.94. They recommend 
the like appropriation of last year, $1,000, with liberty to hire $500 more 
if necessary. And in conclusion, recommend thet)wn so far to recon- 
sider a vote of last year as to dispense with publishing the names of each 
individual who has participated the last year in the appropriation." In the 
meantime the columns of the Nantucket Inquirer were teeming with power- 
fully-written articles, showing the necessity and express duty of the town 
to adopt a public school system. The able and talented editor, the la- 
mented Samuel Haynes Jenks, in sharp and incontrovertible statements 
showed that the schools supported by the town were strictly and only 
" charity " schools for the destitute, and not in any sense public schools ; 
that although the Commonwealth had passed laws more than thirty-five 
years previous for the general education of youth, yet no provision in 
accordance had ever been made bv the town of Nantucket, and that no 
legal public school then existed in the place. 

At the session of the General Court held in 1826 additional laws were 
passed in relation to public education and the establishment of schools for 
this purpose by the several towns. At the same session an act was passed, 
approved March 2, 1826, establishing sessions of the Supreme Judicial 
Court in the county of Nantucket, and at its first session the inhabitants 
of the town were indicted for neglect of schools, whereupon notice was 


issued to the said inhabitants and the case continued to the next term of 
the Court, on the first Tuesday of July following, 1827. 

At the height of this excitement Admiral Coffin visited Nantucket, and 
undoubtedly his attention was drawn to the " deplorable condition " of 
some of his young kinsmen, as described by the school committee of the 
town, and he was induced to carry into execution a plan he had lont^ had 
in contemplation — the establishment of a school upon the Lancaster-ian 
system, designed for the youthful descendants of whatever name, of Tris- 
tram Coffin, his ancestor, who first emigrated from England and settled in 
Saulsbury near Newburyport, and in 1661 removed to Nantucket and there 
spent the remainder of his days. The Coffin school was opened on the 
29th day of May, 1827, and on the same day two public schools by the 
town of Nantucket, which, at the previous March meeting, had appropri- 
ated for the purpose $2,500, The Nantucket Inquirer of June 4th records 
that " on Monday last, two of the large public schools recently established 
by a vote of this town were opened for the admission of scholars. These 
seminaries, which will contain an aggregate of nearly 350 scholars, were 
immediately filled with children above the age of nine years. It is ascer- 
tained that about 300 younger candidates for public instruction now re- 
main to be provided for. The schools nowestabHshed are to be conducted 
on the improved monitorial plan. The Principal Schools in this town are 
as follows : South public school, under the direction of Mr. William 
Mitchell, containing 202 scholars. North Public School, under the joint 
care of Messrs. Nathaniel and Obed Barney, 143 scholars at present. 
Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin's Lancasterian school, conducted by William 
Coffin, Jr., and Miss A. Meach, comprising 230 scholars." This noble 
institution, founded in 1827, has extended its benefits not only to the 
descendants of Tristram Coffin, but to the children of Nantucket generally 
for a period of more than fifty years, increasing in usefulness with its years, 
and bidding fair to continue to an indefinite period of time. While disas- 
ters and misfortunes without number have fallen thick and heavy upon the 
old town, while her children have been driven to the ends of the earth to 
earn a livelihood, while her wharves have fallen in decay, the grass grown 
in her streets, and the sound of labor become low or ceased altogether, yet 
this grand old institution, founded in love and good will, standing almost 
alone, has flourished and grown strong amid a general wreck. 

The prophetic words of the Boston Evening Bulletin on the founda- 
tion of the Coffiu School seem to be fulfilled, and the lesson therein in- 
culcated is worthy our serious consideration at the present time : " When 
it is recollected that in the compact town of Nantucket, comprising a 


population of nearly eight thousand, there were, two years since, no semi- 
naries for the public instruction of youth ; and that upon the establishment 
of the institution in question, designed for the benefit of a numerous class 
of the community, the town itself, provoked and ashamed, as it were, by this 
magnanimous example, was incited to the erection of three similar schools, 
what thanks will not be awarded by the future inhabitants of that island ; 
what magnificent results to coming generations may not be justly antici- 
pated. This is the way to insure immortal fame ! This is the judicious 
and generous mode which Admiral Coffin has adopted for the transmission 
to after ages of the remembrance and the benefits of his bounty, instead of 
vainly providing for the erection of marble monuments or bestowing his 
wealth for the propagation of sectarian doctrines," 

My connection with the school was as a pupil at the second quarter 
in the second year, and I had the honor of receiving a first medal in the 
boys' school at the end of the fourth quarter. I was a pupil when the 
school was visited by Admiral Coffin in 1829, and recollect being play- 
fully taken upon his knee at visits he made at my grandfather's at that 
time. I was also a member of the Board of Trustees several years, where 
we had always the pleasure of your company and the benefit of your ad- 
vice and co-operation, which you have so freely and generously given 
through the entire existence of the school, having been one of the original 
Board of Trustees appointed by the Admiral, and for many years the only 
surviving member thus appointed, and distant is the day, all must join in 
wishing, when your connection therewith shall cease. The great obliga- 
tion I feel to the school of my early days, through which I stumbled with 
weak and faltering steps, but to which distance lends a sweet enchantment, 
has led me to ask the acceptance by the Trustees of this book of records 
which I take the liberty to forward to you with the original papers before 
mentioned. I also ask their acceptance of one of the original medals, 
struck off by direction of Admiral Coffin in memory of Tristram Coffin, 
the first of his race that settled in America, and copies of which he sent 
to the members of the first Board of Trustees. This medal was given to 
me by the late Paul Mitchell, Esq., an acquaintance and near relative to 
the great Admiral. 

With my best wishes for the continued prosperity of the school, and as- 
surance of my high regard and esteem to yourself and the other Trustees 
I am, very respectfully, 

Your friend and ob't servant, 

George H. Folger. 




John "5 


Haverhill ^^^ 

Nantucket Deeds ^^9 

Papers connected with Government of Nantucket .... 124 

Tristram's Deeds to his Children 129 

Number of Tristram's Descendants i35 

Obituary of Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin 136 

List of Vessels to which Admiral Coffin was attached . . 139 

Conclusion ^4° 



p. S7. 

As our memoir was on its way to the corner bookstore, in search of a 
reader, a friend, whose boyhood had been spent in Brighton, recalled to 
remembrance a character too intimately associated with the admiral to 
pass unnoticed. His Yes, Sir Isaac ; No, Sir Isaac, recurring at every 
sentence, as he received his master's orders, still reechoes on the ear. 
Thoroughly English in appearance, speech, and dress, his spatterdashes, 
corduroys, jockey coat, and cap with a gold band somewhat tarnished, 
worn as a badge of his master's rank in the British navy, attracted atten- 
tion the more that our people then scrupulously refrained from any such 
pretensions. His manners, warm and magnetic with his equals, defer- 
ential to those he regarded as his superiors, were rather domineering over 
the stable-boys who served under him. If, like a true Saxon, he used or 
dropped his aspirates somewhat erroneously, he was, when at ease, 
loquacious and sensible, and left the impression that he was thorough- 
bred for his peculiar walk. 

Exuberant in health, his well-knit frame solid and muscular, half- 
sailor, half-groom, he had the credit of being besides an accomplished 
personal attendant, either as valet, nurse, or butler, as the occasion 
served. In earlier days, in his capacity as master's man, then deemed 
indispensable to all personages of means, military rank, or social posi- 
tion, he had attended Sir Isaac about the world, afloat or ashore. On 
an occasion like that of the Nore, when the admiral one stormy night 
plunged into the wintry billows to save a drowning sailor, John, at the 
imminent risk of his own life, had rescued his master from the sharks. 
Such a service the admiral was not likely to forget. 

However extended his social circle, numerous his acquaintances and 
friends, and frequent a guest under many hospitable roofs, ever ready to 
receive him with cordial welcome. Sir Isaac, without domestic ties or 
other home than his cabin, had often to lead a lonely life. He had few 
dependants in whom to take an interest, for whose welfore and happi- 
ness he felt under obligation to care. One in whom he placed implicit 


trust, who in so many ways contributed to his own comfort, intelligent 
and respectful, yet companionable, and who had rendered him such ex- 
cellent service on the occasion to which we have alluded, occupied a 
high place in his regard to their mutual advantage. 

His special charge, when, at this suggestion of my friend, the substan- 
tial presence of John stalked sturdily back into my own consciousness, 
was the stable at Brighton, near the hall on the hill-top, then standing 
in lonely dignity against the sky but long since removed, of the Massa- 
chusetts Agricultural Society. In its spacious stables, befitting their an- 
tecedents, the victors of Epsom and Ascot and of other well-known 
courses, imported by Sir Isaac to improve our breeds, reposed upon their 
laurels, or transmitted them to other generations. In buildings round 
about frolicked their progeny of frisky and comely foals. John, well-versed 
in horse-flesh, an admirable veterinary surgeon, watched with parental 
solicitude over these precious animals committed to his care, ambitious to 
bring them up in the way they should go. 

The Society in whose keeping the horses had been placed, and under 
whose sanction and auspices the benevolent purposes of the admiral were 
carried ouL, then reigned in solitary supremacy. The numerous county 
organizations were not in existence. Its annual fairs attracted crowds 
from all over New England. Its members were from among the most 
eminent of the State. Still remembered well the day when Sir Isaac, who 
was then residing not far away, at Belmont, then my uncle's, where we 
also had our dwelling, attended as their guest. His presence there, and 
that of these fine steeds confided by him to their care, was an event, and 
John, as master-of-hoi'se, in his glory. 

Naturally generous, and ever thoughtful of the wants of whoever had 
any claim upon him, the admiral purchased a farm of many acres near 
the stables at Brighton, and gave it to John. There, with his buxom wife 
and healthy children, still clinging to the ways and customs of England, 
he lived on long past maturity, if not to a great old age. His chief pride 
as long as they remained here, for they eventually went back to England, 
were the horses, and with them he shared the regard of his neighbors, 
many of whom had profited by the opportunity and possessed them- 
selves of scions of such illustrious sires. Two splendid colts of Barefoot's 
were killed by lightning when pastured on an island in the harbor. 
Morgan and other breeds, better adapted to hard work and the intensities 
of heat and cold, superseded Barefoot's ; but doubtless still may be traced 
on the famous Brighton road near by, his fleetness and elegance of 
form grafted on more sturdy stock. 


Our climate, with such extremes of temperature often abrupt, is better 
suited for wheel or runners than for the saddle. Population crowding 
along shore has well-nigh exterminated the fox and deer, and the chase 
without useful purpose lost much of its fascination. Even racing is be- 
coming confined to trotting in harness. But when Sir Isaac sent over 
Barefoot and Serab to improve our stock, New England, like the Old, had 
not lost its taste for running. There were other champions of the turf to 
be remembered besides Winslow Blue. Foxes, too, abounded up to the 
suburbs of our larger municipalities. Well-mounted clubs of the best 
and wealthiest, for their extermination, in traditional splendor of apparel, 
leaped the stitl' stone walls that bounded the fields, as much for their 
own enjoyment as for the benefit of the farmers. Even at this day, at 
Newport and Beverly, men and women gather in large numbers to the 
meet, with well-trained hunters and dogs of high degree, though Reynard 
rarely puts in an appearance, and a bag of aniseseed in a cart proves a 
sorry substitute. 

Our late civil war quickened the taste for equitation. vSpacious parks 
gird round our cities or compose large portions of their extended areas. 
Attractive drives, well-shaded, by the sea or through the forest about 
our summer resorts, tend to promote a taste once more common abroad 
than here. What we still need are better horses for the saddle, from 
stocks with hereditary aptitudes, well-trained till training becomes second 
nature. The best will then become more abundant, and be less costly. 
Other public benefactors will introduce from abroad, or other parts of our 
own land, choice breeds for the purpose, acclimatize them here, teach them 
their paces, and to apprehend instinctively the intent of the rider. 
Then the Boston boy, who did so much half a century ago in this same 
direction, will be appreciated and held in grateful remembrance by all, 
who estimate aright the healthy exhilaration of speeding through the air 
on a perfect mount. 


P- 57- 

It is a curious fact that deep-water fish, soles and turbot, change 
gradually through their generations, — change not only their accustomed 
habits and habitats, but their form and color, to accommodate themselves 
to tlieir new conditions and perils. On the different sides of a broad 
channel, of the broad ocean between Europe and America, the mouth opens 


sometimes on one side and sometimes on the other, according to the slope 
of the shore. Our American turbot, if not equal in flavor or delicacy to 
its English congener, is very similar in general appearance, but with 
sufiicient modifications of form not to be mistaken for it. Sir Isaac had 
been so constantly from early childhood in constant proximity to the sea 
in climates so various, that he was conversant with all the innumerable 
tribes of the ocean, and, realizing how much better the English turbot 
was than ours he brought over, on one of his voyages, in crails both 
turbot and sole, in the hope they might in time become acclimatized 
and multiply in our waters. Our own fishermen say that the English 
turbot has occasionally, though rarely, been caught here retaining in 
large measure the delicacy and other characteristics of the race. Possibly 
with time they will gradually, by selection of breed, and for self-preserva- 
tion, conform more to our type, yet be a better fish. Our chicken hali- 
but, and the larger variety, good and abundant, leave, however, little 
more to be wished. 


" It appears that Tristram did not aftect a permanent settlement at 
Salisbury, but removed the same year to the new settlement of Pen- 
tucket, soon afterward called Haverhill. This settlement was com- 
menced in 1640, Christopher Hussey being among the first settlers, but 
no deed from the Indians w^as obtained until 1642, when the name of 
Tristram Coftyn appears as one of the witnesses thereto. It was first 
recorded in the county records of Norfolk (lib. 3, p. 209) ; and, in 1S32, 
the original deed was said to be in the possession of Charles White, Esq. 
As it is the first appearance of the name of Tristram Cofi'yn upon any 
document in America, I make a copy of it from the ' History of Hav'^er- 
hill,' by B. L. Mirick. The marks made by the Indian sachems were 
representations of the bow and arrow : — 

' Know all men by these presents that we, Passaquo and Saggahew, 
with the consent of Passaconaway, have sold unto the inhabitants of 
Pentucket all the lands we have in Pentucket, that is, eight miles in 
length from the little river in Pentucket westward ; six miles in length 
from the aforesaid river northward, and six miles in length from the 
aforesaid river eastward, with the island and the river ; that the island 
stand in as far in length as the land lies by as formerly expressed, that is, 
fourteen miles in length. And we, the said Passaquo and Saggahew, 


with the consent of Passaconnaway, have sold unto the said inhabitants 
all the right that we or any of us have in the said ground and island and 
river ; and we warrant it against all or any other Indians whatsoever 
unto the said inhabitants of Pentucket, and to their heirs and assigns 
forever. Dated the fifteenth day of November, A. D. 1642. 

Witness our hands and seals to this bargain of sale the day and year 
above written. We, the said Passaquo & Saggahew, have received in 
hand, for and in consideration of the same, three pounds and ten 

In the presence of us 

John Ward. The mark of 

Robert Clements, Pasac^jos X [Seal]. 

Tristram Coffyn, 
Hugh Sherratt, 
William White, 
The sign of (i) 

"^ The mark of 

Thomas Davis. 

Saggahew, X [Seal].' 

Tristram Coffyn settled in Haverhill near Robert Clement, and tradi- 
tion says he was the first person who ploughed land in that town, con- 
structing his own plough. The following year he settled at the Rocks, 
so called. He resided in Haverhill several 3ears, when he removed to 
Newbury (1648-9) , and thence to Salisbury ( 1654-5) , where he organized 
the company for the purchase and settlement of Nantucket." 


Ch. IV., p. 21. 

" These documents, printed thirty years ago from the records of New 
York at Albany, are not accessible to many who may read this volume. 
Some of them are of value as showing by what conveyances Nantucket 
and Martha's- Vineyard vested in the colonists. Others have peculiar 
interest at this time that systems of government for dependencies, or for 
associated nationalities, are under discussion. The plan evidently origi- 
nated on the islands. What part of it was the work of Mayhew, Coffin, 
or Macy, does not appear. They probably all participated, and were 
alike competent to adapt sound political methods and principles to the 
circumstances and exigencies with which they had to deal. 


Deeds from James Fforrett to Thoinas Mayhevj and Son. 
[Deeds, i, 71 ; iii, 64, and iii, 76, Secretary's Office, Albany.] 

These presents do witness, That I, James Fforrett, gentleman, who 
was sent over into these parts of America, by the Honorable Lord 
Sterling, with a commission for the ordering and disposing of all the 
islands that lie between Cape Cod and Hudson river, and have hitherto 
■continued his agent without any contradiction, do hereby grant unto 
Thomas Mayhew at Watertown, merchant, and to Thomas Mayhew 
his son, free liberty and full power to them, their heirs and assigns, to 
plant and inhabit upon Nantucket, and two small islands adjacent, and 
to enjoy the said islands to them, their heirs and assigns forever. Pro- 
vided, that Thomas Mayhew, and Thomas Mayhew his son, or either 
of them or their assigns, do render and pay yearly unto the Honorable 
the Lord Sterling, his heirs and assigns, such an acknowledgment as 
shall be thought fit by John Winthrop, Esq., the elder, or any two 
magistrates in the Massachusetts Bay, being chosen for that end and pur- 
pose by the Hon. the Lord Sterling, or his deputy ; and by the said 
Thomas Mayhew and Thomas Mayhew his son, or their assigns. 

It is agreed, that the government that the said Thomas Mayhew, and 

Thomas Mayhew his son and their assigns shall set up, shall be such 

as is now established in the Massachusetts aforesaid, and that the said 

Thomas Mayhew, and Thomas Mayhew his son, and their assigns shall 

have as much privilege touching their planting, inhabiting, and enjoying 

of all and every part of the premises, as by the patent to the patentees of 

the Massachusetts aforesaid, and their associates. \\\ witness hereof, I, 

the said James Fforrett, have hereunto set my hand and seal this 13th 

day of October, 1641. 

James Fforrett. (Seal) 

Witnesses: Philip Watson, Clerk. 

Robert Corane, 

Nicholas Davison, 

Richard Stillman. 

A Deed made to Mr. Mayhew by Richard Vines. 
[Deeds, iii, (i()., Secretary's Office.] 
I, Richard Vines, of Saco, gentleman, steward-general for Sir Ferdi- 
nand Georges, Knight, Lord Proprietor of the province of main land 
and the islands of Caparrock and Nantican, do, by these presents, give 


full power and authority unto Thomas Mayhevv, gentleman, his heirs 

and associates, to plant and inhabit upon the islands of Caparrock, alias 

Martha's Vineyard, with all rights and privileges thereunto belonging, 

to enjoy the premises unto himself, his heirs, and associates forever, 

yielding and paying unto the said Sir Ferdinand Gorges, his heirs and 

assigns, forever annually, as two gentlemen, indifferently by each of them 

chosen, shall judge to be meet by way of acknowledgment. 

Given under my hand this 25th day of October, 1641. 

Richard Vines. 
Witness : 

Thomas Page, 

Robert Long. 

Deed of Nantucket to ten Purchasers. 
[Deeds, iii, 56, Secretary's Office.] 

Recorded for Mr. Coffin and Mr. Macy aforesaid the day and year 

Be it known unto all men by these presents, that I, Thomas Mayhew, 
of Martha's Vineyard, merchant, do hereby acknowledge that I have 
sold unto Tristram Coffin, Thomas Macy, Christopher Hussey, Richard 
Swayne, Thomas Bernard, Peter Coffin, Stephen Greenleafe, John 
Swayne, and William Pike, that right and interest I have in the land of 
Nantucket, by patent ; the which right I bought of James Fforrett, 
gentleman, and steward to the Lord Sterling, and of Richard Vines, 
sometimes of Saco, gentleman, steward-general unto Sir Gorges, 
knight, as by conveyances, under their hands and seals, do appear, for 
them the aforesaid to enjoy, and their heirs and assigns forever, with all 
the privileges thereunto belonging, for and in consideration of the sum of 
thirty pounds of current pay, unto whomsoever I, the said Thomas May- 
hew, my heirs or assigns, shall appoint. And also two beaver hats, one 
for myself and one for my wife. And further, this is to declare that I, 
the said Thomas Mayhew, have reserved to myself that neck upon Nan- 
tucket called Masquetuck, or that neck of land called Nashayte, the neck 
(but one) northerly of Masquetuck, the aforesaid sale in anywise not- 
withstanding. And further, I, the said Thomas Mayhew, am to bear my 
part of the charge of the said purchase abovenamed, and to hold one- 
twentieth part of all lands purchased already, or shall be hereafter pur- 
chased, upon the said island by the aforesaid purchasers or heirs and 


assigns forever. Briefly, it is thus : That I really sold all my patent to 
the aforesaid nine naen, and they are to pay me, or whomsoever I shall 
appoint them, the sum of thirty pounds in good merchantable pay in the 
Massachusetts, under which government they now inhabit, and two 
beaver hats, and I am to bear a twentieth part of the charge of the pur- 
chase, and to have a twentieth part of all lands and privileges ; and to 
have which of the necks aforesaid that I will myself, paying for it ; only 
the purchasers are to pay what the sachem is to have for Masquetuck, 
although I have the other neck. 

And in witness hereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 
second day of July, sixteen hundred and fifty-nine (1659). 

Per me, Thomas Mayhew. 
Witness : 

John Smyth, 
Edward Scale. 

Deed of Tucka7iucket Island. 
[Deeds, iii, 57, Secretary's Office.] 

Recorded for Mr. Coffin and Mr. Macy aforesaid, the day and year 

afore written. 

The tenth day of October, one thousand six hundred fifty-nine : These 
presents witness, that I, Thomas Mayhew, of Martin's Vineyard, mer- 
chant, do give, grant, bargain, and sell all my right and interest in 
Tuckanuck Island, alias Tuckanucket, which I have had or ought to 
have, by virtue of patent right purchased of the Lord Sterling's agent, 
and of Mr. Richard Vines, agent unto Sir Ferdinand Gorges, Knight, 
unto Tristram Coffin, Sr., Peter Coffin, Tristram Coffin, Jr., and James 
Coffin, to them and their heirs forever, for and in consideration of the 
just sum of six pounds in hand paid, and by me, Thomas Mayhew, 
received in full satisfaction of the aforesaid patent right of the aforesaid 


• And in witness hereof I have set my hand and seal. 

Per me, Thomas Mayhew. 
Witness hereunto : 

Roger Wheeler, 
George Wheeler. 


Deed of Wanockmamack . 

This witnesseth that I, Wanochmamack, chief sachem of Nantucket, 
hath sold unto Mr. Tristram Coffin and Thomas Macy, their heirs and 
assigns, that whole neck of land called by the Indians, Pacummohquah, 
being at the east end of Nantucket, for and in consideration of five 
pounds, to be paid to me in English goods or otherwise to my content by 
the said Tristram Coffin aforesaid, at convenient time as shall be de- 
manded. Witness my hand or mark this 22d of June, 1662. 

Witness hereto : 

Peter Folger & Wawinnesit whose English name is Amos. 

Indian Deed of Nantucket. 

[Deeds, iii, 54, Secretary's Office.] 

Recorded for Mr. Tristram Coffin and Mr. Thomas Macy, the 29th of 
June, 1 67 1, aforesaid. 

These presents witness, that I, Wanackmamack, head sachem of the 
island of Nantucket, have bargained and sold, and do by these presents 
bargain and sell, unto Tristram Coffin, Thomas Macy, Richard Swayne, 
Thomas Bernard, John Swayne, Mr. Thomas Mayhew, Edward Star- 
buck, Peter Coffin, James Coffin, Stephen Greenleafe, Tristram Coffin, 
Jr., Thomas Coleman, Robert Bernard, Christopher Hussey, Robert 
Pike, John Smythe, and John Bishop, these islands of Nantucket, 
namely, all the west end of the aforesaid island, unto the pond commonly 
called Waquittaquay, and from the head of that pond to the north side 
of the island Manamoy ; bounded by a path from the head of the pond 
aforesaid to Manamoy ; as also a neck at the east end of the island called 
Poquomock, with the property thereof, and all the royalties, privileges, 
and immunities thereto belonging, or whatsoever right I, the aforesaid 
Wanackmamack have, or have had in the same ; That is, all the lands 
aforementioned, and likewise the winter feed of the whole island from the 
end of an Indian harvest until planting time, or the first of May, from 
year to year forever ; as likewise liberty to make use of wood and timber 
on all parts of the island ; and likewise half of the meadows and marshes 
on all parts of the island, without or beside the aforesaid tracts of land 
purchased ; and likewise the use of the other half of the meadows and 
marshes on all parts of the island, without or beside the aforesaid tracts 


of land purchased ; and likewise the use of the other half of the meadows 
and marshes, as long as the aforesaid English, their heirs and assigns, live 
on the island ; and likewise I, the aforesaid Wanackmamack, do sell unto 
the English aforementioned, the propriety of the rest of the island belong- 
ing unto me, for, and in consideration of forty pounds already received 
by me, or other by my consent or order. To have and to hold, the afore- 
said tracts of land, with the propriety, royalties, immunities, privileges 
and all appurtenances thereunto belonging to them, the aforesaid pur- 
chasers, their heirs and assigns forever. 

In witness whereof, I, the aforesaid Wanackmamack, have hereunto 
set my hand and seal, the day and year above written. 

The sign of Wanackmamack. 

Signed, sealed, and delivered in the presence of 
Peter Foulger, 
Eleazer Foulger, 
Dorcas Starbuck. 

Jndiaft Receipt for Land — Receipt of Wanackmamack. 
[Nantucket Records, Old Book, page 27.] 
Received of Tristram Coffin, of Nantucket, the just sum of five pounds 
which is part of the seven pounds that was unpaid of the twenty pound 
purchase of land that was purchased of Wanackmamack and Neckanoose, 
that is to say, from Monomoy to Waquettaquage pond, Nanahumack 
neck, and all from Wesco westward to the west end of Nantucket, I say, 
received by me, Wanackmamak, of Tristram Coffin, five pounds sterling, 

the iSth of the eleventh month, 1671. 

The X mark of 

Witness hereunto : Wanackmamack. 

Richard Gardner, 

Elezer Folger. 

Two Letters or Certificates from the Lnhabitants of Nantucket. 
[Deeds, iii, 58, Secretary's Office, Albany.] 

Recorded for the aforesaid Mr. Coffin and Mr. Macy, two lives on certi- 
ficates, from the inhabitants of Nantucket, as follows, viz. : — 

Whereas, the Honorable Colonel Lovelace, Governor of New York, 
gave forth his summons for the inhabitants of the isle of Nantucket to 


make their appearancfe before His Honor at New York, either in their 
own person or by their agent, to show their claims in respect to their 
standing or claim of interest on the aforesaid island. Now we, whose 
names are underwritten, having intrusted our father, Tristram Coffin, to 
make answer for us, we do empower our father, Tristram Coffin, to act 
and do for us with the honored Governor Lovelace, so far as is just and 
reasonable, with regard to our interest on the isle of Nantucket and 

Witness our hands the second day of the fourth month, sixteen hundred 
and seventy-one (1671). 

James Coffin, 
Nathaniel Starbuck, 
John Coffin, 
Stephen Coffin. 

This is to signify that the inhabitants of Nantucket have chosen Mr. 
Thomas Macy their agent to treat with the Honorable Colonel Lovelace 
concerning the affairs of the island, to act for them in their behalf and 
stead, and in all considerations to do what is necessary to be done in 
reference to the premises, as if they themselves were personally present. 

Witness their hands, dated June 5, 1671. 

Edward Starbuck, 
Peter Folger, 
John Rolfe. 

The inhabitants aforesaid do also, in the name of the rest, desire Mr. 
Tristram Coffin to assist their aforesaid agent what he can in the matter 
or business concerning the Island Nantucket. 

Proposals to the Governor from the InJiabitants of Nantucket about 

Settling that Government. 

[Deeds, iii, 59, Secretary's Office.] 

Imprimis. We humbly propose liberty for the inhabitants to choose 
annually a man or men to be chief in the government, and chosen or 
appointed by His Honor to stand in place, constantly invested with power 
of confirmation, by oath or engagement, or othei-vvise as His Honor shall 
appoint, one to be chief in the court and to have magistratial power at 
all with regard to the peace, and other necessary considerations. 


Second. We take for granted that the laws of England are standard 
of ofovernment, so far as we know them, and are suitable to our condi- 
tion ; yet we humbly propose that the inhabitants may have power to 
constitute such law or orders as are necessary and suitable to our condi- 
tion not repugnant to the laws of England. 

Third. In point of carrying on the government from time to time, we 
are willing to join with our neighbor island, the Vineyard, to keep 
together one court every year, one year at our island, the next with them, 
and power at home to end all cases not exceeding twenty pounds ; and 
in all cases liberty of appeal to the general court in all actions above 
forty pounds. And in all actions amounting to the value of one hundred 
pounds, liberty of appeal to His Highness, his court at the city of New 
York, and in capital cases, or such matters as concern life, limb, or 
banishment. All such cases to be tried at New York. 

Fourth. And feeling the Indians are numei'ous among us, we propose 
that our government may extend to them, and power to summon them 
to our courts with respect to trespass, debt, and other miscarriages, and 
to try and judge them according to laws, when published amongst them. 

And, lastly, some military power committed to us respecting our 
defence, either in respect of Indians or strangers invading, etc. 

The Answer to the Nantucket Proposals. 
[Deeds, iii, 60, Secretary's Office.] 

At a council held at Fort James, in New York, the 28th day of June, 
in the twenty-third year of His Majesty's reign, Anno Domini 1671. 

In answer to the proposals delivered in by Mr. Coffin and Mr. Macy 
on the behalf of themselves and the rest of the inhabitants upon the 
Island Nantucket, the governor and council do give their resolutions as 
follows, viz. : — 

Imprimis. As to the first branch in their proposals it is thought fit 
that the inhabitants do annually recommend two persons to the governor, 
out of which he will nominate one to be the chief magistrate upon that 
island, and the island of Tuckanuckett, near adjacent, for the year ensu- 
ing, who shall, by commission, be invested with power accordingly. 

That the time when such a magistrate shall enter into his employment 
after the expiration of this first year shall commence upon the 13th day 
of October, being His Royal Highness's birthday, to continue for the space 


of one whole year, and that they return the names of the two persons 
they shall recommend three months before that time to the governor. 

That the inhabitants have power by a major vote annually to elect and 
choose their inferior officers, both civil and military, that is to say, the 
assistants, constables, and other inferior otficers, for the civil government, 
and such inferior officers for the military as shall be thought needful. 

Second. The second proposal is allowed of: That they shall have 
liberty to make peculiar laws and orders at their General Court for the 
well government of the inhabitants, the which shall be in force amongst 
them for one whole year, during which time, if no inconvenience do 
appear therein, they are to transmit the said laws or orders to the 
governor for his confirmation. However, they are (as near as may be) 
to conform themselves to the laws of England, and to be very cautious 
they do not act in any way repugnant to them. 

Third. To the third it is granted that they join with their neighbors 
of Martha's Vineyard in keeping a General Court between them once a 
year, the said court to be held one year in one island, and the next year 
in the other, where the chief magistrate in each island where the court 
shall be held is to preside, and to sit in their respective courts as presi- 
dent, but, withal, that upon all occasions he counsel and advise with the 
chief magistrate of the other island. 

That the said General Court shall consist of the two chief magistrates 
of both islands, and the four assistants, where the president shall have a 
casting voice ; for the time of their meeting, that it be left to themselves 
to agree upon the most convenient season of the year. 

That in their private courts at home, which are to be held by the chief 
magistrate and two assistants, where the chief magistrate sl)all have but a 
single voice, they shall have power finally to determine and decide all 
cases not exceeding the value of five pounds without appeal ; but in any 
sum above that value they have libei'ty of appeal to their General Court, 
who may determine absolutely any case under fifty pounds without 
appeal ; but if it shall exceed that sum the party aggrieved may have 
recourse, byway of appeal, to the General Court of Assizes, held in New 

And as to criminal cases, that they have power both at their private 
courts at home, as well as at the General Court, to inflict punishment on 
oflTenders so far as whipping, stocks, and pilloring, or other public 
shame. But if the crime happen to be of a higher nature, where life, 
limb, or banishment are concerned, that such matters be transmitted to 
the General Court of Assizes likewise. 


Fourth. In answer to the fourth, it is left to themselves to order those 
affairs about the Indians, and to act therein, according to their best dis- 
cretions, so far as life is not concerned : wherein they are also to have 
recourse to New York, but that they be careful to use such moderation 
amongst them that they be not exasperated, but by degrees may be 
brought to be conformable to the laws ; to which end they are to nomi- 
nate and appoint constables amongst them who may have staves with the 
King's arms upon them, the better to keep their people in awe and good 
order, as is practised with good success amongst the Indians at the east 
end of Long Island. 

To the last, that they return a list of the inhabitants, as also the names 
•of two persons amongst them ; out of whom the governor will appoint 
one to be their chief military' officer, that they may be in the better ca- 
pacity to defend themselves against their enemies, whether Indians or 

Nantucket Affairs. 
[Deeds, iii, 85, Secretary's Office.] 

Additional instructions and directions for the government of the Island 
Nantucket, sent by Mr. Richard and Captain Jno. Gardner, April the 
iSth, 1673. 

Imprimis, that in regard that the town upon the island of Nantucket 
is not known by an}^ peculiar or particular name, it shall from henceforth 
be called and distinguished in all deeds, records, and writings by the 
name of the town of Sherborne, upon the Island Nantucket. 

That all ancient and obsolete deeds, grants, writings, or conveyances 
of lands upon the said island, shall be esteemed of no force or validity, 
but the records of every one's claim or interest shall bear date from the 
first divulging of the patent granted to the inhabitants by authority of His 
Royal Highness, and so foiward, but not before the date thereof. 

That the time of election of the chief magistrate, and other civil 
officers, be and continue according to the directions and instructions 
already given ; but in regard of the distance of the place and the uncer- 
tainty of the conveyance betwixt that and this place, the chief magistrate 
and all the civil officers shall continue in their employments until the 
return of the governor's choice and approbation of a new magistrate be 
sent unto them, which is to be with the first convenient opportunity. 

That in case of mortality, if it shall please God the chief magistrate 
shall die before the expiration of his employment, the assistants for the 


time being shall manage and carry on the affairs of the public until the 
time of the new election, and the governor's return and approbation of a 
new magistrate in his stead. 

That the chief military officer shall continue in his employment during 
the governor's pleasure, and that he have power to appoint such persons 
for inferior officers as he shall judge most fit and capable. 

That in case of the death of the chief military officer during the 
time of his employment, that then the inhabitants do forthwith make 
choice of two persons, and return their names unto the governor, who 
will appoint one of them to be the officer in his stead. 

That in regrai-d to the General Court to be held in the Island Nantucket 
or Martha's Vineyard is but once in the year, where all causes or actions 
are triable without appeal to the sum of fifty pounds, liberty be granted 
to try all actions of debt or trespass at their ordinary courts to the value 
of ten pounds without appeal, unless upon occasion of error in the pro- 
ceedings there, because of complaint from the ordinary court unto the 
General Court, or from the General Court to the Court of Assizes. 

That what is granted in the general patent to the inhabitants, free- 
holders of the Island Nantucket, is to be understood, unto them alone who 
live upon the place and make improvement thereof, or such others who 
having pretences of interest shall come to inhabit there. 

Given under my hand at Fort James, in New York, the day and year 
afore written ; and in the twenty-fifth year of His Majesty's reign. 

Soon after the marriage of Mary Coffin, the youngest daughter ot 
Tristram, with Nathaniel Starbuck, the old gentleman concluded to 
make his son-in-law a landed proprietor ; and, with as much care for the 
contingencies of the future as kind parents exercise in the present age, 
and with equal nicety in the choice of language as may be found in 
modern conveyances, executed the following deed to his daughter and 
her husband. It will be seen that it was made some years before it was 
acknowledged, and acknowledged some years before it was recorded : — 

Tristram conveys to daughter^ Mary Starbucks and her husband^ 
Nathaniel^ 07te-half of all estates. 

[Nantucket Records, ist Book, Page 97.] 
Know all men by these presents, that I, Tristram Coffin, of Nan- 
tucket, do for divers good considerations, as also in regard of my fatherly 


affections, do give unto my daughter, Mary Starbuck, the one-half of my 
accommodation of my purchase, on Nantucket Island, namely, the half 
of my tenth part which I bought with the other nine first purchasers 
of Mr. Thomas Mayhew, in patent right, and of the Sachems Indians 
right, as by their grant in the deed will at large appear : I do as afore- 
said give and grant unto my daughter, Mary Starbuck, all the one-half 
of my accommodation of patent right, and all my right of the half of all 
lands, meadows, marshes, commons, timber, wood, and all appur- 
tenances thereunto belonging, as fully as myself or any of the other 
twentv part shares have or ought to have, in manner and form follow- 
ing : the one-half to her own and her husband's disposal, namely, her 
husband, Nathaniel Starbuck, to them and their heirs and assigns, for- 
ever, the other half to my aforesaid daughter, Mary Starbuck, and 
Nathaniel Starbuck, her husband, during their lives, and when they die, 
then it shall be for the use of my daughter, Mary Starbuck's child, or 
children, to him, her, or them, and their heirs, forever ; but if my 
daughter, Mary Starbuck, have no child or children living when she 
dieth, then it shall be in the power of her husband, Nathaniel Starbuck, 
to dispose of all the aforesaid lands and accommodations, with all appur- 
tenances, as he shall judge most meet. In witness whereof, I, the said 
Tristram Coflin, have hereunto set my hand and seal, this 14th fourth 
month, 1664. 

Tristram Coffyn. 
[Signed, sealed, and delivered in the presence of — 

Thomas Macy, 

Mary Swain, 

Sarah Macy. 

This deed was acknowledged before me, Thomas Mayhew, upon 
the island of Nantucket, this 15th day of January, 1677; I say before me, 

Thomas Mayhew, Mag. 

July 26, 1736. — Then received the original of this above written 
deed, and by the desire of same concerned, perfected the record above 
by making the sign of the seal. Attest : 

Elezer Folger, Regr. 

While Tristram was generally reputed to be quite wealthy in goods 
and lands, owning, together with his sons, at one time about one- 


fourth part of the island of Nantucket and the whole of Tuckernuck, 
he did not die rich. He fully realized that he could not take his riches 
with him to another world, and that the amount of land he would re- 
quire at his death would be very small. He made no will, but disposed 
of much of his land while he lived, by deeds, the consideiation always 
being his ' regard and natural affection.' Most of the remainder of his 
estate he deeded to his two youngest sons, John and Stephen, and they 
were to take after the decease of both himself and his wife. To each of 
his grandchildren he gave ten acres of land upon the island of Tucker- 
nuck, or to such of them as would plant it. 

Tristram to Stephen^ his youngest son., conveying half his accommo- 
dations., exceptiftg his new house on the hill. 

[Nantucket Records, Old Book, Page 63. 1 

Know all men by these presents that I, Tristram Coffin, of Nan- 
tucket, Senior, do give, grant, bargain, and sell unto my son, Stephen 
Coffin, the one-half of my land at Cappam, alias Northam, within the 
township of Sherborn, situated upon Nantucket island, that is to say, the 
one-half of my house lot, with half my accommodations and privileges 
and appurtenances whatsoever thereunto belonging, all buildings, except 
that is to say, my new dwelling-house upon the hill, and my old dwell- 
ing-house under the hill, by the herb-garden ; now, for and in consid- 
eration of the aforesaid premises, my son, Stephen Coffin, shall always 
from time to time do the best he can in managing of my other half of 
my lands and accommodation during mine and my wife's life, and that he 
be helpful to me and his mother in our old age and sickness, what he 
can : now I, Tristram Coffin, abovesaid, do for this and for divers other 
considerations me moving thereunto, do, as abovesaid, give, grant, 
bargain, and sell unto my son, Stephen Coffin, his heirs and assigns, all 
my one-half of my house lot, with all appuitenances thereunto belonging : 
To have and to hold forever, to him, the said Stephen Coffin, his heirs 
and assigns, executors and administrators, upon the conditions afoi-esaid : 
and my son, Stephen Coffin, shall always, from time to time, have free 
liberty to go to and fro to the new barn that he hath lately built with 
horse, foot, and cart, as he hath occasion, and to have the free use of 
half an acre of land adjoining the said barn on the east side, and south 


and north side. In witness whereof I have set my hand and seal, the 
fifteenth of the eleventh month, one thousand six hundred and seventy- 
six. Tristram Coffyn. 

Acknowledged before me the deed within written this 15th day of 
June, 1677. Thomas Mayhew, 


Agreement bet-ween Stephen Coffijt and his father^ as to rights in barn 
to Tristram and his wife Dionis. 
[Nantucket Records, 2d Book, Page I3.] 
Articles of agreement between Tristram Coffin, Senior, and Stephen 
Coffin, son of the aforesaid Tristram Coffin, both of the town of Sher- 
born, on the island of Nantucket, as follows : imprimis, we do jointly 
and severally agree that whereas there is a barn built at Coppamet by 
us, this present year, one thousand six hundred seventy-seven, that the 
aforesaid Stephen Coffin had been at the most part of the charge, there- 
fore I, Tristram Coffin, do covenant and agree with niy son, Stephen 
Coffin, that he shall have the aforesaid barn and lean-tos for himself, and 
his heirs and assigns, forever : to have and to hold and quietly to enjoy, 
in consideration whereof, as also in consideration of the receiving of 
two thousand feet of boards, and some timber, and some labor of 
several persons in framing the works, I, Stephen Coffin, do consent and 
agree that my father, Tristram Coffin, and my mother, Dionis Coffin, 
shall have the use of the one-half of the aforesaid barn, coming in and 
going to the barn and lean-tos without any kind of hindrance, let, or 
molestation, by, from, or under me, Stephen Coffin, my heirs, executors, 
administrators, or assigns ; and if my father and mother aforesaid do 
happen to die in some short time, as namely, within seven years after 
the date hereof, then I, Stephen Coffin, do engage to pay the sum often 
pounds to my father or mother's order, within one year after their de- 
cease, if they or either of them order me so to do. Witness our hands 
and seals to this agreement, the i8th of July, 1677. 
Signed, sealed, and delivered in presence of " 
us, who are witness to these present within 
written articles of agreement. 

Martha Hussey. Thomas Macy. 
Nathaniel Barnard, 
This deed was acknowledged this 24th day of July, before me, 

Thos. Macy, Mag. 

Tristram Coffyn. 
Stephen Coffin. 


Tristram grants his new dwclli ng-house to his son John. 

[Nantucket Records, 2d Book, Page 19.] 

To all Christian people to whom these presents shall come, Tristram 
Coffin, Senior, in the town of Sherborn, on the Island of Nantucket, 
sendeth greeting, and declareth that, in regard to my natural affection 
unto my son, John Coffin, now of Sherbon, as also for divers other good 
and lawful considei'ations, I, the above said Tristram Coffin, do freely 
give unto my son, John Coffin, and to his heirs, forever, my new dwell- 
ing-house, with all other houses adjoining unto it ; and also the whole 
half share of land and accommodation and appurtenances thereunto be- 
longing, namely, my part of the house lot and all commonage of timber, 
wood, pasturages, and all meadows, marshes, and creek grass thereunto 
belonging; and, I, the aforesaid Tristram Coffin, do freely and firmly by 
these give, grant, and confirm the above said dwelling-house, with all 
privileges and appurtenances as aforenamed, unto my son, John Coffin, 
and to his heirs : to have and to hold forever, immediately after the decease 
of me, the aforesaid Tristram Coffin, Senior, and my now wife, Dionis 
Coffin, free and discharged against all persons or person la^'ing any claim 
unto the above said house or any appurtenances thereunto belonging, in, 
by, or under me ; and in witness hereof I, Tristram Coffin, Senior, have 
set my hand and seal the third day of December, one thousand six hun- 
dren and seventy-eight. 

Tristram Coffyn, Senior. 
Witness hereunto : 

James Coffin, 

Stephen Coffin. 

This was acknowledged by Mr. Tristram Coffin to be his act and deed 
the 3d 10 m., 167S. 

A true copy : William Worth, Assistant. 

William Worth, Recorder. 

Tristram grants ten acres of land to each of his grandchildren to 

[Nantucket Records, 2d Book, Page 17.] 
All men shall know by these presents that I, Tristram Coffin, of 
Sherborn, on the island of Nantucket, with or in regard of my natural 


affection unto my grandchildren, I do freely give unto every one of 
them ten acres of land to plant or sow English grain on, or any other 
improvement, for oats, or what is fit for food for men. And I, the above 
said Tristram Coffin, senior, do freely and firmly give unto all and every 
one of my grandchildren that are now living, or that shall be born here- 
after, each of tliem ten acres of land upon the island of Tuckernuck : 
To have and to hold, to plant Indian corn, or to sow or plant any other 
grain on, and if they or any of them shall sow their land with English 
hay-seed they shall have liberty to keep four sheep upon every acre 
during the lifetime of any one that shall so improve the above-named 
land or any part of it. In witness hereof, I, Tristram Coffin, have set 
my hand and seal 3d loth, 1678. 

Signed, sealed, and delivered in presence of 
us the within written deed. 

James Coffin, John Coffin, 
Stephen Coffin. 

>■ Tristram Coffyn. 

This deed was acknowledged by Mr. Tristram Coffin, to be his act 
and deed before me, William Worth, assistant, 3 m loth 167S. 

This is a true copy of the original by me. — William Worth, Regr. 

By these deeds above quoted we shall learn that Trystram Coffyn had 
a new dwelling-house, which stood on a hill, and another dwelling- 
house which stood under the hill. Also, that he last lived in his new 
house on the hill. With this information, and by tracing the title of the 
new house on the hill, which was conveyed to John Coffin, and from 
John to his son Peter, and from Peter to his son Robert, the said 
Robert's estate being defined within the recollection of the present 
generation, I think we can know the exact spot where Tristram Coffyn 
last resided, and from which place his mortal put on immortality. His 
wife, who survived liim, doubtless breathed her last in the same mansion, 
as she was to have a life-right carved out of the estate which subsequently 
became vested in John and Stephen Coffin. The Court of Sessions, at 
that time exercising probate jurisdiction, allow'ed to Mrs. Dionis Cofiyn 
the use of the entire estate of her husband during her life, the three sons, 
James, John, and Stephen, as administrators, so recommending." 



p. 25. 
Tristram Coffyn left a posterity of seven children, sixty grandchildren, 
and a number of great-grandchildren. His posterity is more numerous 
now. In 1722 there had been born 1,138 descendants, of whom 871 
were then living. In 1728, six years later, there had been added to the 
number born 444, making the total number born 1,582; and of that 
number 1,128 still survived. This computation, by Stephen Greenleaf, 
the first grandchild, was made more than one hundred and fifty years 
ago. What the number now is will never be definitely ascertained. 
Their name is legion. 



[ " Gentleman's Magazine," 1840, vol. xiii., p. 205.] 

July 23. At Cheltenham, aged 80, Sir Isaac Coffin, Bart. G.C.B., 
Admiral of the Red. 

This gallant old officer was the fourth and youngest son of Nathaniel 
Coffin, Esq., Cashier of the Customs in the port of Boston, America, 
by Elizabeth, daughter of Mr. Henry Barnes, merchant, of the same 

He entered the Royal Navy in May, 1773, under the auspices of Rear- 
Admiral John Montagu, who confided him to the care of the late Lieut. 
Wm. Hunter, of Greenwich Hospital, at that period commanding the 
brig "Gaspee"on the American station. "Of all the young men," 
said Lieut. Hunter, " I ever had the care of, none answered my expec- 
tations equal to Isaac Coffin. . . . Never did I know a young man 
acquire so much nautical knowledge in so short a time." 

Mr. Coffin afterwards served as midshipman in the "Captain," " King- 
fisher," "Fowey," and "Diligent," on the Halifax station; and from 
the last named was removed into the " Romney " of 50 guns, bearing 
the flag of his patron at Newfoundland. In the summer of 1778 he 
obtained a lieutenancy, and the command of the "Placentia" cutter; 
and the following spring he served as a volunteer on board the " Sybil " 
frigate, commanded by Captain Pasley, and was soon after appointed to 
the command of le " Finson " armed ship; in which he had the mis- 
fortune to be wrecked on the coast of Labrador, but on a court-martial 
was acquitted of all blame. 

Having visited England he was, in November, 1779, appointed to the 
" Adamant," about to be launched at Liverpool ; and in the following 
year he escorted in her the outward-bound trade to New York. He was 
next appointed to the " London 98," the flag-ship of Rear-Admiral 
Graves, on the coast of America ; and from her he removed into the 
" Royal Oak," a third-rate, under Vice-Admiral Arbuthnot, to whom 
he acted as Signal-Lieutenant in the action off' Cape Henry, March 16, 

In July following he was made Commander, and on his arrival at New 


York joined the " Avenger" sloop. He was afterwards received as a 
volunteer, by Sir Samuel Hood, on board the " Barfleur 98," in which 
he shared in much active service. Having subsequently rejoined his 
sloop, he was appointed Captain of the " Shrewsbury 72," at Jamaica, 
and confirmed in that rank June 13, 1782. In the following December 
he exchanged to the " Hydra 20," in which he returned to England, 
and was put out of commission. 

After spending some time in France he was, in 1786, appointed to 
the " Thisbe " frigate, and ordered to take Lord Dorchester and his 
family to Quebec. 

In the course of 1 7S8, being irritated by some treatment experienced 
from the Admiralty, Captain Coffin took the extraordinary' step of pro- 
ceeding to Flanders, where he entered into the service of the Brabant 
patriots ; but the event which shortly ensued, of the conduct of Lord 
Howe and his colleagues at the Board being declared illegal by the 
twelve judges, decided his return to the sei^vice of his King and country ; 
and at the Spanish armament in 1790 he was appointed to the " Alli- 
gator" of 28 guns. At that period, when lying at the Nore, during a 
strong wind, a man fell overboard, and Captain Coffin, impelled by his 
generous spirit, immediately leaped after him. He succeeded in rescu- 
ing a fellow-being from death ; but his exertions produced a severe 
rupture, which frequently afterwards reminded him of this act of 

In the spring of 1791 our officer, having previously been to Cork, 
where he received the flag of Admiral Cosby, was once more ordered 
to America, from whence he returned with Lord Dorchester and his 
family in the ensuing autumn. The " Alligator " was soon after paid 
off at Deptford. 

At the commencement of the war with the French republic Captain 
Coffin, who had in the interim visited Sweden, Denmark, and Russia, 
obtained the command of the " Melampus " frigate, in which he was 
employed on Channel service until the close of 1794, when one night, 
by exerting himself too violently, he became ruptured on both sides, 
which obliged him to quit his ship, and for some months he was literally 
a cripple. On his recovery he went to Leith, being appointed to the 
recruiting service at that port; and in October, 1795, he proceeded to 
Corsica, where he served as Resident Commissioner until the evacua- 
tion of that island, Oct. 15, 1796. From thence he removed to Elba, 
and subsequently to Lisbon, where he continued for two years, actively 
employed as the head of the naval establishment of that place. 


Towards the latter end of 1798, when Minorca fell into the hands of 
the English, Commissioner Coffin was appointed to the superintendence 
of the arsenal at Port Mahon ; and after the lapse of a few months 
returned to England on his way to Nova Scotia, whither he proceeded 
in the " Venus " frigate. 

Our officer continued to perform the arduous duties of a Resident 
Commissioner of the Navy, first at Halifax, and subsequently at 
Sheerness, until April, 1S04, when he was advanced to the rank of Rear- 
Admiral, and soon after hoisted his flag on board the " Gladiator," 
being appointed to superintend the harbor duty at Portsmouth. On 
the 19th of May, 1804, he was created a Baronet as a reward for his 
unremitting zeal and persevering efforts for the good of the public 

Sir Isaac Coffin hauled down his flag on being promoted to the 
i-ank of Vice-Admiral, April 28, 1808. He became full Admiral 
June 4, 1814. 

At the general election of 181 8 he was returned to Parliament for the 
borough of Ilchester, for which he sat until the dissolution in 1826. In 
Parliament he constantly paid much attention to naval matters, and not 
unfrequently in a style of facetiousness that relieved the subject of its dry 
technicality. His charity was extensive ; and within a few weeks of his 
death he remitted an additional and liberal donation to the Royal Naval 
Charity, " for fear," as he humorously expressed himself, " he should 
slip his wind and forget all about it." 

Sir Isaac Coffin married, March, 181 1, Elizabeth Browne, only child 
of W. Greenly, Esq., of Titley Court, Herefordshire. She died not 
long before her aged partner, on the 27th January, 1839, having had no 
issue. Previously to his marriage Sir Isaac obtained the royal permis- 
sion to take the name and arms of Greenly, in addition to his own, but 
he relinquished that name in March, 1S13. 

He was possessed of considerable estates in the Magdalene islands, in 
the Gulf of St. Lawrence. He had crossed the Atlantic on service or 
pleasure no less than thirty times. 








Romney frigate. 

Placentia cutter. 

Sybil frigate. 




Vessels to -which Coffiit was attached. 

Royal Oak. 










Well-known Officers in the Navy, friends of Coffin. 
Sir John Montague. 

Sir George Montague. 









William IV. 





The preface of a book usually contains its last words to the reader. 
Our own has long since been struck off, and it still remains to account 
for some lack of arrangement too glaring to escape unobsei-ved, for 
which, if explained, some allowance may be made. This sketch of my 
subject had long been in manuscript, much more minute in detail, when 
invited to condense it into a discourse. In order to bring it within the 
specified limit of an hour for delivery, much that had been prepared 
was omitted. When printed for the January Record the twelve pages 
originally allotted were extended to nearly as many again. It was 
impossible, even within these limits, to embrace all that might be useful 
or interesting for the descendants of Tristram to know, or for the 
many besides who, for other reasons, should find it instructive. It 
seemed better that it should contain too much than too little, enough to 
make the rest understood. 

Besides, its value depended upon finding a place upon the shelf as a 
volume, where it could be easily consulted, not among the pamphlets in 
a closet to pass out of view. It seemed, also, an object that its title 
should be in the catalogue of bound books in the libraries where it could 
easily be found. That it might not only attract attention, but be of use 
to the numerous class whose history it partially related, it seemed worth 
while to improve the occasion, without neglecting the principal subject, 
and incorporate whatever else would shed new light on the family annals. 
While passing through the press many precious documents and other 
papers, previously unknown, came to my knowledge ; to insert some of 
them appeared indispensable to a full and fair view of the career of the 

The writer would be glad to have copies of all correspondence that 
exists of Sir Isaac, letters that he wrote or which were addressed to him, 
and to learn all incidents and anecdotes of him or other members of the 
CoflSn race, which if known would have added to the value or entertain- 
ment of this volume. If not his privilege to perfect this work by adding 
such contributions now, they will be kept together where they cannot be 
lost. There will be perhaps other memoirs to be written in the times to 


come where they will find a place. There are reasons why biographers 
should be of other names than their subjects. Sharing their stock and 
familiar with all that concerned the admiral from his earliest days, he 
hopes that it may not be considered presumption in him to have 
undertaken the task. 

It has been an ancient custom, not yet passed away, for educational 
and eleemosynary institutions in our mother-country and other lands, to 
hold in remembrance the birthdays of their founders In " Pendennis," 
Col. Newcomb celebrated such an anniversary among the Blue Coats of 
London. Sir Isaac, setting forth in his revoked will the rules for his 
nautical schools, followed simply this time-honored custom in providing 
that his own should be kept, and that prizes and presents should be 
bestowed on that day upon the pupils, that he, too, might be pleasantly 
remembered. He was not sanctimonious enough to be canonized for a 
saint, nor will it be fifty years since he died before 18S9. He possessed 
nevertheless many of the qualifications for such a place in the calendar, 
in his generous consideration of others. This tribute is paid to his 
memory, about whom much more that is interesting might be said, on 
this anniversary of his birthday. 

Boston, May 16, 1SS6. 

19 Commonwealth avenue. 


P^g^ 55* For creditor read debtor. 
" 57. For crates read crails. 
" 67. For Brabanders ;'^a<f Brabanters. 








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Sketches m Salem, Maiblehead, Portsmouth^ 
and Kittery. 


The autUor of " Early New England 
[nteriors" may well congratulate himself 
upon the success he has achieved in this 
Ills first production. He has chosen a 
difficult task on which to exercise his tal- 
ents, — a tasl< requiring no small amount 
of taste, and which to handle well re- 
quires high artistic abilities, strong pow- 
ers of observations, immense persever- 
ance, and a genuine inborn liking for tlie 
antiiiue, — i. e., anti<iaity as displayed 
in the now fast crumbling-away edilices 
reared by our comfort-loving ancestors in 
the ohi Colonial times. . . . That task he 
has done well; and in a manner that will 
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executed a century or more ago: to such 
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onist noticeable only for its lack of taiite 
and conspicuous simply for green blinds 
and white painteil walls, these sketchci! 
will be revelations. They will ever be so 
to the New Englander. . . . The creiiit 
of following in the footsteps of Nash, and 
of first attempting to do for New England 
what was done so nobly for Old England 
ill the famous " Stately Mansions," be- 
longs, therefore, to the delineator of the 
sketches before us. Many of the interiors 
he has portrayed, especially of those old 
halls where carved staircases are shown, 
and the ornamental work on and around 
windows, are exceedingly well done; and 
the proper degree of light thrown in, 
here and there, to show up the architect- 
ure, and to get at a clear aspect of the 
whole, supposing one to be entering at 
the porch door, is marvellously bronght 
out, to say the least. . . . Nothiiig li:ie 
escaped his eye to what is interesting ami 
picturesque. — Boston Daily Adverliaer. 

4 Work to be studied by all contemplating remodelling old hou$p.s. 

Published by CUPPLES, UPHAM & CO. 

2S;J Wa.suixotox ."SriJKLT, Boston 


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